A criminal justice reform model that involves grassroots participation by family and community members to help keep people out of incarceration is receiving a $600,000 grant from Google.org.
Silicon Valley De-Bug will use the money to broaden its “participatory defense” model with community members and partners to work toward ending mass incarceration. In the U.S., more than 2 million people are incarcerated.
Google.org is the philanthropic arm of the Silicon Valley search engine and recently issued racial justice grants to three San Francisco Bay Area organizations that are working on social justice efforts.
“We are excited to share this model of ‘participatory defense’ to families and community stakeholders who we believe need not be regulated to watching the court system from the sidelines but can engage and change the outcome of cases of loved ones and power in the criminal justice system,” Raj Jayadev, director of Silicon Valley De-Bug, said in a statement.
“If this happens in the San Francisco Bay Area, we think it can change the way justice is exercised in the country and keep people in homes and communities instead of jails and prisons.”
Silicon Valley De-Bug houses the Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project, which works with people to document the lives of those who might be incarcerated. One key goal: To tell judges about why it is important that a person remain with loved ones and not be sent to prison.
This approach “has lead to acquittals; charges have been dismissed and reduced; prison terms changed to rehabilitation programs; even life sentences taken off the table,” Jayadev has written.
“Communities not only kept loved ones home, they also saved the state and the Department of Corrections millions of dollars.”
Jayadev and community members with whom he works estimate that the “participatory defense” model has saved people more than 1,800 years of prison time. This model, he has said, is useful because public defenders can often be overwhelmed with cases and unable to prepare the best defense for a person.
On Nov. 3, Google.org announced $2.35 million in racial justice grants, according to USA Today. The other grants are going to the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, California, which is receiving $1 million, and Oakland Unified Public Schools, which will use $750,000 to support its African American Male Achievement program.
Silicon Valley De-Bug, a community organizing, advocacy and media organization in San Jose, California. De-Bug hosts the Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project, an organizing and training model for families and community members to participate in their local criminal court system. Raj Jayadev has written opinion essays for Equal Voice News.