Neighborhood Defender Service establishing office in Wayne County
AmNews Staff Reports | 2/21/2019, midnight
The Wayne County Procurement Division announced that it has recommended the Neighborhood Defender Service (NDS) for tentative award of the contract to establish a public defender office in Wayne County.
The decision means NDS will open an office in Wayne County later this year and assume roughly 25 percent of the adult felony cases in Michigan’s Third Judicial Circuit. Clients in Detroit will benefit from NDS’ holistic defense model, which provides clients with unparalleled legal defense while simultaneously confronting the underlying issues that bring them into contact with the justice system.
“We are honored that Wayne County has invited us to bring our award-winning model of early-entry, team-based holistic representation to the people of the county,” said NDS Executive Director Rick Jones. “We know what it means to work in communities harmed by mass incarceration and look forward to making NDS Detroit a leader in the provision of public defense.”
This award is contingent upon approval by the Wayne County Commission. The office will begin work upon completion of a successful contract negotiation.
Loren Khogali, executive director of Michigan Indigent Defense Commission, said: “MIDC looks forward to working with Wayne County and NDS as they implement the MIDC standards, and we are particularly pleased to hear that the County and NDS are committed to bringing the deep experience of Wayne County attorneys to this nationally respected defender model.”
NDS comes to Detroit with almost 30 years of experience providing the highest quality legal representation to indigent clients. That work has attracted national recognition: in October 2018, the National Association for Public Defense (NAPD) awarded NDS the inaugural Defender of Justice award, naming NDS as the public defender office that best provides a voice to those who cannot afford a lawyer and recognizing the impact of NDS’ holistic model on clients, their families and communities.
NDS clients are represented by a team that includes criminal defense attorneys, social workers, investigators, advocates, team administrators, law school and social work interns and civil and pro bono attorneys. This allows the defense to extend well beyond the courtroom: when clients face consequences with employment, schooling, immigration or in family or housing court, NDS works alongside them to resolve these issues. NDS will seek to partner with foundations and other private funding sources to expand beyond criminal defense and provide these holistic services in Wayne County.
NDS will bring this model to Detroit in a way that is responsive to the local community, fortifying it through the power of public defense.
“Our proven ability to reduce incarceration keeps families and communities together, rather than torn apart and locked away,” Jones said. “By offering a host of integrated services to help our clients thrive, we will keep more residents and their families at home in Wayne County, protecting the past and ensuring the future.”
NDS Detroit will be a local office with a local team. Jones is a native Detroiter whose career in public defense has been shaped by his formative years in Wayne County. Having served at NDS since its inception, as the immediate past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and an inaugural steering committee member of the NAPD, Jones has a deep understanding of the legal, social and economic issues that the people of Wayne County face.
Chantá Parker will serve as the managing director of this new office. A former NDS legal intern and staff attorney who now serves as supervising attorney in the Criminal Defense Practice, Parker brings over 10 years of defense experience and an unwavering commitment to providing the highest quality services to the people of Wayne County. Jones and Parker will be joined in the NDS Detroit leadership by experienced Detroit public defenders.
NDS Detroit’s leadership team is focused on attracting the most qualified talent for a staff of nearly 80 professionals. The new office will be a community resource for the clients and families it serves, and all levels of the organization will have familiar Wayne County faces.
NDS Detroit anticipates opening its doors soon after a contract has been negotiated. It looks forward to making justice a reality for those farthest from its reach in Wayne County.