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Keir Bradford-Grey on what ‘participatory defense’ could look like in Philly

(L to R) Isaac Freedman, Debby Freedman, Keir Bradford-Grey, Rep. Jordan Harris and Mitch Little. November 21, 2017 Category: FeaturedPeopleShort

Around the Corner” is a PhillyCAM show that offers local social impact leaders the opportunity to share what impact their work is having on the Philadelphia area.


Last month on “Around the Corner,” we hosted Defender Association’s head of adult social services, Curt Watkins. This month, we got the legal defense organization’s head honcho: Keir Bradford-Grey.

The Defender Association is in the midst of a push to launch participatory defense, a justice initiative that started in Silicon Valley and made its way to Montgomery County while Bradford-Grey was its chief defender.

Participatory defense connects community members — organizations such as, say, the Reentry Think Tank, and individuals who have been involved with the legal system themselves — to public defenders to help the latter learn about their clients’ personal and social lives, such as their work and family histories, for more “robust” results, Bradford-Grey said.

For instance, the participatory defense organizers could set up weekly meetings with the families of those in the system and talk through the courts process with them so they know what to expect at each hearing.

“That’s what you want to see out of our justice system: not just looking at someone as a processed number, but looking at them as an individual,” Bradford-Grey said. “The only way we can do that is by connecting with the untapped resources of the community.”

The Defender Association is hosting a participatory defense kickoff event on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 5:30 p.m. at Community College of Philadelphia with the founders of the movement on hand to explain what the initiative could look like in Philadelphia. Learn more below.

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