Shelby County Public Defender Chairs ACE Awareness Board

ACE Awareness Foundation an effort to help parents, caregivers limit or prevent a child’s chronic exposure to trauma

Shelby County Public Defender Stephen Bush has been named the new chair of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Awareness Foundation board.

“As the public defender, I see daily the consequences of adverse childhood experiences in the lives of the thousands of children bumping up against juvenile court,” said Stephen Bush, Shelby County Public Defender.

 

“In fact, 93% of youth in detention have survived repeated trauma. This strong correlation between trauma and contact with juvenile court is undeniable and something that we, as parents and as community, cannot afford to ignore.”

Bush has served on the ACEs Task Force since it was founded in 2014. The task force launched the ACE Awareness Foundation. Since then, the foundation has created two Universal Parenting Places (UPPs) which provide any parent who walks through their doors with counseling and information involving family-related issues or concerns. In July, ACEs also opened the “Warm Line” — a free, live telephone line that connects parents with trained professionals who provide parenting guidance and support.

“We’ve known for many years about the link between early childhood traumas and future justice system involvement,” said Bush. “What is becoming increasingly clear, though, is that toxic stress experienced during childhood is crippling to a child in ways far beyond problems at school or an encounter with the justice system.”

For his first public outreach as ACE Awareness Foundation board chair, Bush appeared on the Commercial Appeal’s ‘Talk, Memphis’ podcast hosted by journalist David Waters.

“It’s about fundamental fairness. Which is really what our work at the public defender’s office is about. We are appointed to represent individuals that can’t afford counsel, because I believe everyone deserves a fair shake. The Constitution requires it,” said Bush on the podcast. “But if you take that same idea, certainly every kid born in this community should have a fair shake and a healthy life – to live a healthy and whole life.”

“I can tell you, if we get this right about reducing and preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences, we can begin to talk about reducing the size of our criminal justice system, right-sizing our juvenile justice system and the savings that could come from that could very well fund anything we need to do in public education.” 

You can listen to the entire podcast here

Learn more about the work the ACE Awareness Foundation is doing to increase knowledge among policy makers, state and local leaders and citizens about the effects and causes of toxic stress in this piece that aired in April of 2016 on PBS Newshour.  You can watch the entire segment here.

Check out the ACE Awareness Foundation website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Stephen Bush Named Public Official of the Year

Shelby County Public Defender recognized by Tennessee Chapter of National Association of Social Workers

Stephen Bush accepting the NASW Tennessee chapter's "Public Official of the Year" award in Nashville.
Stephen Bush accepting the NASW Tennessee chapter’s “Public Official of the Year” award.

“The arc of the moral universe is long… in my experience, it most often bends toward justice when we embrace and bring forward the work that you do.”

Building upon one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s most powerful ideas about justice, Shelby County’s Public Defender spoke to the importance of connecting those caught in the criminal justice system with social services.

Stephen Bush was in Nashville on March 30th to accept an award at the National Association of Social Workers Tennessee Chapter (NASW) “Day on the Hill”.

Bush was recognized as the NASW-TN Public Official of the Year for his role in creating the Jericho Project and his support of social work as a key component of client-centered defense.

The Jericho Project is a nationally-recognized jail diversion program for people with serious mental illness and substance abuse disorders. Most recently, the Jericho Project was selected as one of the top Criminal Justice Innovations in 2015 by the Center for Court Innovation and the National Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

Earlier this year, Bush accepted a board position on the ACE Awareness Council, an organization dedicated to understanding and raising awareness in Shelby County about the effects of early childhood trauma on brain development and the connection to health and behavioral disorders.

 

The Radical Idea of Justice

Stephen Bush, Shelby County Public Defender

“We got it right here nearly 100 years ago when visionary leaders embraced the radical idea  that people facing incarceration in Shelby County deserved the help of an attorney,      regardless of ability to pay — and they got it right decades before the U.S. Supreme Court demanded the same for all Americans.

Abe Fortas got it right, too, and may have said it best. In 1966, by then an associate Supreme Court justice, he wrote in Kent v. U.S.: ‘The right to counsel is not a formality. It is not a grudging gesture to ritualistic requirement. It is the essence of justice.'”

– Shelby County Public Defender Stephen Bush, The Commercial Appeal, March 18th, 2016

Read this guest column written to honor the first Public Defense Day.

The Radical Idea of Justice via The Commercial Appeal

 

Watch this video about the wrongful murder charge that sparked the beginning of public defense in Memphis.