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Heard on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

Wayne County Invests in Public Defenders for Poor Detroiters

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Image credit: Jake Neher/WDET

As public defenders we see it as our job to make sure the system is fair,” says Chantá Parker of Neighborhood Defender Service.

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Jake Neher/WDET
Jake Neher/WDET

Criminal justice reform has gained renewed attention locally and nationally, as a unique opportunity for bipartisan consensus.

A key aspect of that reform is access to fair and affordable representation in court. The state of Michigan has long struggled to ensure quality representation for all citizens, regardless of their ability to afford it.

Advocates and elected officials are now concerned with how to best allocate state funds flowing to Wayne County for quality public defense support. A group established 30 years ago in Harlem called the Neighborhood Defender Service, has now planted roots in Detroit to assist in addressing issues of pubic defense.  

Click the player above to hear the full conversation on criminal justice reform in Wayne County.


Warren EvansWayne County Executive, is enthusiastic about the Neighborhood Defender Service’s presence in Detroit. He hopes to move toward a more holistic approach to representation, and criminal justice reform more broadly. Ultimately, he says, it’s important for citizens to feel connected to their community. 

It’s challenging to feel connected and encouraged to contribute to society “if you feel like society has its foot on your neck and is grinding it.” - Warren Evans, Wayne County Executive 

Chantá Parker, Managing Director of Neighborhood Defender Service Detroit, says her group’s obligation is to guarantee that the justice system is fair to all citizens, irrespective of financial means. Parker insists that broad and fair public representation is not only the right thing to do, but also aids in easing the immense strain placed on the criminal justice system.

When people get robust representation they are less likely to come back to the system.” - Chantá Parker, Neighborhood Defender Service Detroit


Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.

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