Community Defense Project

Logo of the Community Defense Project SLP

Public attention to systemic injustices within the criminal legal system have increased significantly over the past decade. Despite efforts to call out the harm perpetrated by police and prisons, the criminal court process remains a black box. However, judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys play a huge role in determining whether and how people are sentenced to incarceration after arrest.

For the past three years, a group of court watch volunteers in Alameda County have observed how courts are dealing with rising COVID cases in jails, using money bail versus pretrial alternatives, and treating defendants and their loved ones in hearings. We are looking for volunteers to join us in this effort to uncover what is happening in the criminal courts, share this information with the public, and hold court officials accountable to the communities they are supposed to serve.

The Community Defense Project will also focus on broader community education related to local District Attorneys and the role they play within the criminal legal system, as well as equip community members with necessary support to help combat the system at large. A report published by the Urban Peace Movement and the ACLU can be found here:

Students will participate in a number of projects depending on the Urban Peace Movement’s needs. This will include: observing court hearings and noteworthy trials in person (and potentially online, depending on court rules); preparing family members from the participatory defense hub to present statements about their incarcerated loved ones for the monthly town hall meetings with DA Nancy O’Malley (and her replacement following the 2022 DA election); writing reports, compiling data, and consolidating court watch observations to present during DA accountability meetings with Nancy O’Malley and community organizers; conducting legal research and writing about local criminal policies for Alameda County; and preparing educational materials describing the role of judges and prosecutors to distribute around the community.

Supervision: Students will receive training and be supervised by attorneys at the East Bay Community Law Center and Urban Peace Movement

Time Commitment: 15-20 hours per semester.

For more information, please contact the student leaders at