Public attention to systemic injustices within the criminal legal system has increased significantly over the past decade. While we have clearly seen and called out the harm perpetrated by the police, jails, and prisons, criminal courts remain 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 year, 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.
The DA Accountability and Participatory Defense Project is looking for volunteers to join 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 SLP 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 UPM and the ACLU can be found here: https://meetyourda.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/acda-press-release.pdf
Student participants in the SLP will engage in a number of projects depending on UPM’s needs. This will include observing court hearings and noteworthy trials (virtually or in-person depending on when the courts open up); preparing family members from the participatory defense hub to present statements about their incarcerated loved ones for the monthly town hall meetings with the District Attorney; writing reports, compiling data, and consolidating court watch observations to present during DA accountability meetings with the District Attorney and community organizers; conducting legal research and writing about local criminal policies for Alameda County; preparing educational materials describing the role of judges and prosecutors to distribute around the community.
Time Commitment: 15-20 hours per semester.
For more information, please contact the student leaders at firstname.lastname@example.org.