Concerts for Indigent Defense: Be a Part of It!
It’s not that the public doesn’t believe in the constitutional right to counsel, even for people who can’t afford to provide their own. By and large, they do.
This constitutional right is so poorly treated because the public doesn’t tend to think about it, much less speak up about it. So public concern for this constitutional right basically goes unrecognized.
As a result, when Governors and legislatures are crafting budgets in perpetually tight fiscal times, they don’t make a priority of properly funding public defense. The tendency is more to dip into that pot than contribute to it. This is because elected officials put a priority on what they sense to be their voting constituents’ priorities, and fund the programs that they’re speaking up for. In politics, and especially in political budget setting, that’s essentially how it goes.
Concerts for Indigent Defense is being launched to address this problem – and it can work right out of the gates.
Concerts for Indigent Defense will invite and enable musicians from across the country to designate their concerts on the weekend of March 18, 2017 as a “Concert for Indigent Defense,” to honor the anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright.
These are not fundraisers. Musicians will simply declare their shows a “Concert for Indigent Defense.” Yet by doing so together, in specific cities and also across the country, the Concerts for Indigent Defense campaign’s website and active outreach campaign through social and mainstream media before, during and after the shows will bring real buzz to the issue, to music fans, in the media, and through it all, to the larger public. And politicians will notice.
Concerts for Indigent Defense will specifically shine a light on the musicians, their concerts, and their concerns (and experiences) about how important it is that everyone have meaningful access to counsel when facing criminal charges. As importantly, the website will be a hub and resource for information about public defense systems – and their struggles, failures, successes, and the human stories reflecting them. That information will come from participating public defender offices, related advocacy organizations, official sources, clients and their families. The website will also direct people to where and how they can more directly support reform efforts through those organizations.
As such Concerts for Indigent Defense isn’t carrying its own agenda, or a new agenda. It simply seeks to be a platform that enables musicians, defenders, and the public to create real and positive demand for proper support for this right which is essential to justice in our criminal justice system – and at the heart of the injustice regularly doled out by our justice system to those who can’t afford to defend themselves.
I started developing this idea about a dozen years ago, and have never been able to shake it. The plan is crafted to be as doable and effective as possible by simply leveraging the attainable commitments from those involved. After years of discussions, and expressions of support from a variety of musicians, defenders, advocates, and others, it clearly has the potential to succeed in making a difference. It just needed to be launched, for if it could successfully get up and running there is clearly widespread enthusiasm in the project, and a willingness from key players across the spectrum to engage.
Last week I did exactly that, launching a Concerts for Indigent Defense a Kickstarter campaign to fund the website that is the hub of the entire effort. And our chances for success are good; after the first weekend, the website already has 30|PERCENT| of the support it needs to be launched.
So look out, and get ready! With any luck, Concerts for Indigent Defense will have proven its viability before the end of the year, and if that happens we will all have an exciting and accessible vehicle for having musicians lead an exciting nationwide call to support indigent defense in your cities, and nationwide.
I would be more than happy to partner with you, your office, your musician friends, or others to enable Concerts for Indigent Defense to create excitement and support for our field, in your city, county, and state regardless of where you are. It can, and with the community’s participation it will.
If you are have connections with musicians who might be interested; if your office would like to share information through this process; if you, your colleagues and friends might want to be a part of it in your office, city, county or state; or if there’s any way you’d like to be a part of it, I can promise you we’ll make the most of what you have to offer.
If you’d like to know more about how you can help make Concerts for Indigent Defense work for your office, your clients, your community, and our country as a whole, we welcome whatever you might like to do.
We’ve got a hell of a fight ahead of us, now more than ever. Concerts for Indigent Defense can help us build our strength in a trying time, without distracting defenders from the work – and in exciting ways.
Together, let’s do this. I’d be glad to hear from you at Stephen@StephenSaloom.com or Stephen@ConcertsforIndigentDefense.org.