Justice Should Be a Reality, Not a Dream

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. Nearly fifty years ago, Dr. King delivered his historic “I have a Dream” speech in Washington. He called for civil and economic rights – equality for all regardless of race, status and beliefs.

However, the fight for civil rights didn’t end with that speech. Injustice didn’t disappear with the end of segregation. Disparity still lingers in our criminal justice system. Poor people are incarcerated at a higher rate because they can’t afford bond, indigent defendants make up 80% of court dockets and public defense is significantly underfunded. Retrials, wrongful convictions and exonerations persist.

Many in our community haven’t been given a fair shot at life. Now is the time for this to change. Addressing education, mental health, rehabilitation, re-entry programs, employment and healthcare – and the connection to our criminal justice system – must be priorities if we ever hope to break the cycle of violence. Our clients are fighting for a chance in court, a second chance at life. Less known, our clients fight for a chance to prove they are better than the worst thing they’ve ever done and many times to prove their innocence – with only their public defender standing beside them.

We fight everyday for justice, for fairness in our criminal justice system and for those unjustly shut out of the process. Justice should never hinge on the amount of money in a man or woman’s pocket, or skin color, or even the side of the tracks they come from. Justice is demanded by our constitution. Justice is a human right, in and out of the courtroom. Justice should be a reality, not a dream, for all New Orleanians.

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