NLADA launch “Fighting for the AccUSed: The Public Defense Campaign for Safe, Secure Communities”

You are here

Release Date: 
Tuesday, November 7, 2023

WASHINGTON  — Today the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) announced the launch of “Fighting for the AccUSed: The Public Defender Campaign for Safe, Secure Communities.” The campaign is a public education campaign aimed at changing perceptions about public defenders in communities and the press. The campaign also seeks to build public support for the passage of the EQUAL Defense Act and the Quality Defense Act, and urges the Biden Administration to support other federal, state, and local efforts to fund public defense.

“We're all interested in public safety,” said April Frazier Camara, President and CEO of NLADA. However, we can not arrest or incarcerate our way toward safer communities. “Public defenders have the knowledge and experience to provide solutions to public safety concerns that actually work, but we’re often left out of the conversation. This campaign will help everyone understand the importance of including the public defender’s voice in these discussions.”

“Fighting for the accUSed: The Public Defender Campaign for Safe, Secure Communities” is also supported by National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and National Association for Public Defense. 

Public defenders are integral parts of the communities they serve, and include social workers, investigators, community engagement professionals, and lawyers. Nationwide, about 80% of defendants in the legal system use a public defender. The campaign emphasizes the fact that public defenders know that the clients they represent in court are members of the community. They are our neighbors, family members, colleagues, and friends. Public defenders firmly believe that no one should face the might of the government or the courtroom without a strong advocate by their side.

Until now, the narrative about public defense has been told from the perspectives of those who do not align with the values of public defense. This has led to a one-sided view of public defenders and their work. 

Public Defenders are often involved in their community far beyond legal services, hosting events like expungement workshops to help people clear their records, and working on holistic defense, helping clients find necessary treatment like mental health or addiction services both pre- and post-trial. 

In some ways, public defenders often play the role of the “first responders” within the legal system — those who rush in to help those in need, not only with their legal needs but also with the underlying social issues people are facing.  Public defenders level the playing field, ensuring a fair trial where both sides (prosecution and defense) can present their cases effectively, preventing one-sided outcomes.



The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA), founded in 1911, is America’s oldest and largest nonprofit association devoted to excellence in the delivery of legal services to those who cannot afford counsel. NLADA has pioneered access to justice at the national, state and local levels, playing a leadership role in the creation of public defender systems and other important institutions from The Sentencing Project to the Legal Services Corporation. A leader in the development of national standards for civil legal aid and public defense, NLADA also provides advocacy, training, and technical assistance for equal justice advocates across the country.