This Article introduces participatory defense as a powerful new model for improving public defense and challenging mass incarceration. This grassroots movement empowers the key stakeholders — people who face criminal charges, their families, and their communities — to become change agents who force greater transparency, accountability, and fairness from criminal justice systems. After introducing the model’s core principles and goals, the Article offers innovative analyses from doctrinal, theoretical and empirical perspectives. First, the Article connects participatory defense with the crisis-ridden history of the constitutional right to counsel, including that doctrine’s roots in the Due Process right to be heard. Second, the Article frames participatory defense within a new theory of criminal justice that emphasizes equality in the generation and administration of law. Finally, core principles of participatory defense are applied in cutting-edge empirical research that amplifies the voices of the key stakeholders in system assessment and offers new support for reform litigation and policy advocacy.
78 Albany Law Review 1281 (2015)