Why Holistic Public Defense Matters in Atlanta

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Release Date: 
Friday, February 21, 2020

Our VISTA members come from diverse backgrounds but all share passion and conviction that holistic indigent defense matter. Below, Breonna Hendricks, VISTA member in Atlanta, Geogria, shares why it matters to the block where the City of Atlanta Public Defender’s office is.

From our office window, we can see a mural by Fabian Williams with a quote from bell hooks explaining a beloved community. It reads, a “Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world.”

Once we leave the doors of our office, we are met with the triple evils that act as barriers and hinder us from achieving such a community. These evils include: Poverty, Racism, and Militarism. Although the City of Atlanta is being gentrified, this area is predominantly populated by those who are black and/or homeless. Where we find homelessness, we often find substance abuse, and because of the criminalization of poverty, the area is heavily policed. There is even a police watchtower that takes surveillance of the whole block.

The work I do matters because the data we track can change how we deal with clients who are homeless and/or dealing with substance abuse. The data can show how a more holistic approach to the justice system has more benefit than just locking clients up and throwing away the key. The work I do matters because the people within my community just want to be seen and heard just like any other human being. I want to help my city and the world see my community the way I see it. Through the eyes of love and compassion.