Honoring Gideon v. Wainwright

Honoring Gideon v. Wainwright

Photo Credits: ALEXA FONTANILLA / AGGIE

Yolo County Public Defender’s Office fundraises for holistic defense

The Yolo County Public Defender’s Office will host its Holistic Defense Fundraiser on March 15 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Blue Note Brewing Company in Woodland. The event will honor of the 56th anniversary of the Gideon v. Wainwright case, which ruled that all defendants in criminal cases are entitled to attorneys, regardless of whether they can afford to hire one. The office hopes to bring awareness and help indigent individuals with basic needs.

Emily Kochly, a social worker for adult clients at the Yolo County Public Defender’s Office, explained the origin of holistic defense.

“Holistic defense is somewhat pioneered by The Bronx Defenders out in New York,” Kochly said. “They have encouraged other public defenders’ offices to reach out to the community for a dual purpose — to provide outreach and education to the community about the work that we do and the needs of the community and to gain their support in assisting our clients and the various needs that they have. It was an idea spurred on by leaders in the field and took the idea to our office, and it was supported by the office so we are putting it forward in action now.”

Yolo County public defenders are encouraged to uphold the values of holistic defense.

According to Yolo County’s website, the Yolo County Public Defender’s Office received an award in 2014 from The Center for Holistic Defense. The website states, “The Yolo County Public Defender’s Office has been selected to receive technical assistance from The Center for Holistic Defense, a national training resource center located at The Bronx Defenders in New York and funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Center provides training to defender offices across the country seeking to provide innovative, client-centered, holistic defense services to indigent clients.”

Holistic Defense is a public defense model that seeks to have better outcomes for clients and communities through recognizing that the incarcerated are defined by more than their crimes — that criminal cases are only a part of the many issues individuals face.

According to The Davis Enterprise, Tracie Olson, a Yolo County public defender, noted that clients have other substantial needs that must be met.

“No client should pick up Failure to Appear charges due to inability to afford bus fare, nor be released from custody without access to food, clothing or essential medication,” Olson said. “Beyond our annual clothing drive, there is more we can do with the community’s support.”

In addition, Kochly mentioned how fitting the fundraiser relates to the Gideon v. Wainwright case.

“That court case was how the public defenders system started within the United States,” Kochly said. “Before that court case, people who were poor or indigent were not entitled to free public defense and now everyone is entitled to an attorney, which is what our office does. Our office provides legal representatives to people who are facing criminal charges who cannot afford an attorney. It seems fitting to have the fundraiser close to the anniversary of that case.”

Kochly noted that the fundraiser will be a first for the office.

“One of our main goals is to just have a large turnout or community support,” Kochly said. “We’ve been very excited when we’ve gone to local businesses and people in the community [are] in support of the idea — we’ve heard that people are excited to attend the event.”

Kochly hopes that the turnout will be substantial. In addition, the office wishes to raise funds to help clients with basic needs.

“We’re also trying to raise funds to help our clients meet some of their most basic needs — [we’re] hoping to have a source of funding to get bus tickets because that’s not part of our current budget and helping people get their medications after they get out of jail because they do not have insurance,” Kochly said. “Just hoping to get the community support and let them know the issues that our clients face on a daily basis.”

Kochly said they will be holding a raffle as well as a silent auction.

“We’ll have a 50/50 raffle that people can buy raffle tickets and, if they win the raffle, then they’ll win 50 percent of the money raised on raffle tickets,” Kochly said. “We’re also having a silent auction. Some items that are available at the silent auction will be artwork created by people who are incarcerated at our county jail or juvenile hall.”

Written by: Stella Tran — city@theaggie.org