Memphis Business Journal: Shelby County Public Defenders win grant for training

As part of a Training & Technical Assistance Grant earlier this year, the Law Offices of the Shelby County Public Defender receive training in techniques from The Bronx Defenders in partnership with the Center for Court Innovation. Shelby County was one of six public defender offices chosen to receive the grant.

Public defenders in Atlanta, Birmingham, Oakland, St. Louis and San Jose were also awarded grants.

On July 23 and 24, a few Memphis public defenders, including Josh Spickler, director of the Defender’s Resource Network, visited The Bronx Defenders.

“The most significant thing I noticed about the Bronx Defenders’ practice is that the dignity of the client is paramount,” Spickler says. “Even simple things like unlocked doors and welcoming, unshielded reception desks are indications that they do not fear their clients, but they welcome them.”

Spickler says that for his clients in Memphis, the mood is much different.

The Shelby County Public Defender’s offices are housed at 201 Poplar, site of numerous courts and jail space, and while that may be efficient, Spickler says that it does little to calm client’s concerns.

“The difference between our client and a Bronx Defender client could not be more stark. And it’s the best indication I can give of what our community thinks about poor people charged with crimes,” says Spickler. “We’re scared, nervous and only engaging them because we have to. With the Bronx Defenders, everything they do after that initial, physical meeting falls right in line with the mission.”

Soon, The Bronx Defenders will visit Memphis as part of the program.

By Ed Arnold

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