Participatory Defense is one of the most exciting developments in community organising in the country right now.

In a court system previously considered a space for silence and passivity, families and friends are now helping defense teams mount narratives of defendants’ lives and contributing to a wider view for the court’s consideration. Preparing for court is a huge task but dividing the tasks up among many community members simultaneously makes it manageable and demonstrates to the judge and/or jury that the defendant is loved, supported, valued, wanted.

Participatory Defense proves that a person is more than the crime for which they appear in front of court.

Silicon Valley DeBug and its specialised Participatory Defense arm, The Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project, has diverted clients away from a cumulative 1,800 years of incarceration!

Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project

We’ve told this story at dinner tables, conferences, and courthouse hallways. Here is the story of how participatory defense came to be…

(A participatory defense meeting from 2009 at Silicon Valley De-Bug (A participatory defense meeting from 2009 at Silicon Valley De-Bug

This is the story of Participatory Defense – a community organizing model for families and communities to impact the outcome of cases of their loved ones and change the balance of power in the courts.

Eight years ago, we started doing community organizing around police accountability. We knew how to march, rally, hold press conferences. But when a case hit the most critical stage – the courts, we didn’t know how to flex that organizing power. Ironically, we were relinquishing the strength of collective action at the time it was most needed – when a case hit the judicial process. Even though many of us were critical of the courts, there was an unspoken belief from many that…

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