NDS Detroit Managing Director Chantá Parker appeared on the Craig Fahle Show on Deadline Detroit to discuss the arrival of world-class public defense to Detroit.
Fahle talked about the shortcomings of public defense in Detroit and nationwide, and ways to address them. He pointed to NDS as a leader in the provision of zealous representation to communities impacted by mass incarceration with an innovative model designed to meet their needs.
“Oftentimes public defender offices are understaffed and underfunded and oftentimes don’t have the time to make sure [clients] get the kind of defense that someone with resources might get. Some would argue it’s even a two-tiered justice system… Wayne County did something about it, they have now partnered with Neighborhood Defender Service to handle 25% of indigent cases here,” Fahle said. “It’s going to reduce caseloads and be a new approach to dealing with their clients and their clients’ needs.”
James Heath, Corp Counsel for Wayne County said that the Sixth Amendment Center’s study of indigent defense in the county informed the County’s decision to work with NDS.
“One of the things we were really excited about is the model NDS has. What a lot of people don’t know is that the vast majority of attorneys that were working with the prior public defender are now working at NDS, and if you talk to these people they’re excited about the increased and different training opportunities they receive. [They are excited to be] learning from national experts. There’s a great spirit in the office,” Heath said. “The holistic defense model is what blew Wayne County away and is why NDS has the contract that they do.”
Parker stressed that NDS’ holistic approach draws from nearly 30 years of work in Harlem but is informed by the particular communities in Detroit.
“This is groundbreaking in Michigan and nationally,” Parker said. “We are very thoughtful about our own model, that works in Harlem…and looked at what was happening on the ground here and what practitioners were saying was needed and drew on our own experience in public defense to think about the kind of office we wanted to build.”
Crucially, clients will notice the difference immediately.
“Folks can see that their attorneys don’t have as many cases as they used to have,” Parker said. “They’re seeing their attorneys much earlier in the process because we have administrative support to get them into our case management system. They’ve got social workers and client advocates…we’ve got more investigators so we can go out and hit the ground and find evidence to build our defense. Just from beginning to end, we’ve got more resources to devote to our clients and they’ll feel a difference in the relationship they have with their representation.”
Listen to the full interview here.