Connecticut Starts Second Year of NLADA AmeriCorps

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Release Date: 
Wednesday, October 7, 2020

As the Connecticut Division of Public Defenders Services (CDPD) enters their second year of AmeriCorps NLADA VISTA programming, they are continuing the court outreach started by Tyler, the 2019 VISTA member, with COVID-19 safety protocols. Read on to hear how Nichele is assistating CDPD with outdoor events to help people find information about their case and apply for legal assistance. >

The Connecticut Division of Public Defenders Services (CDPD) main office is located in Hartford, Connecticut’s capital, the north central part of Connecticut. According to the 2019 census population there was an estimate of 122,105 people living in Hartford. Hartford is a truly diverse city. The population is 44.5% Hispanic or Latino, 36.9% percent Black or African American, 33.1 % White, 14% White alone non-Hispanic or Latino, 5.5% Two or more races, 3% Asian, less than 1% of American Indian, Alaska Native, Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone. Hartford has been nicknamed the Insurance Capital of the world and serves as headquarters for five large corporations recognized on the Forbes Global 2000 biggest companies list. It is also home to the Mark Twain House, CT Science Center, Wadsworth Atheneum, many theaters, art galleries, and more. As financially good as that sounds, Hartford’s poverty rate in 2017 was 30.5% which equates to one out of 3.3 residents living in poverty. When compared to poverty on a state level, Hartford surpassess the state’s percentage of those living in poverty. The state poverty rate in 2017 was only 9.4%. Residents with income below 50% of the poverty level was 15.5% Hartford, while only 4.6% for the entire state. In Hartford people of color suffer more from the effects of poverty. Not only is poverty a problem, but crime is a major problem. Just this year in February 2020 local news station WTNH put out an article about a study done by a local company that analyzed 93 cities by looking at the FBI’S latest crime report for violent and property crime for every place with over 7,000 residents. Hartford was listed as number one in being the most dangerous in CT.

The Connecticut Division of Public Defenders Services mission statement is “Striving to ensure justice and a fair and unbiased system, the Connecticut Division of Public Defender Services zealously promotes and protects the rights, liberty and dignity of all clients entrusted to us. We are committed to holistic representation that recognizes clients as individuals, fosters trust and prevents unnecessary and wrongful convictions.” The CDPD provides services for those facing a criminal case and who financially cannot afford an attorney. With budget cuts and high caseloads, the CDPD try their best to provide legal counsel, treatment recommendations and holistic approaches to the criminal justice system. Currently the CDPD has been hosting community application events at the majority courthouses in the state of Connecticut. We had an event in every Judicial District by the end of September. By having these events the CDPD is engaging with the public by helping those who have been arrested and have not received a court date or never got the chance to apply for a public defender.  With the pandemic, many people are unaware when they need to go to court. At the events, Public Defenders help people complete a financial and intake assessment, which helps those facing criminal charges access legal counsel. So far this has helped bridge a gap of communication between the public and state. COVID -9 has taken the world by surprise and has changed the circumstances for many legal matters. Many people have no clue when their next court date is or what is the next step in their court case. The CDPD gives the public hope that someone is on their side to help. This gives the client a sense of relief knowing that they are in great hands.