Public defenders from around the country convened in Denver this spring for the first of its kind event to build consensus for policy and practice reforms.  Top defenders from 21 states and the District of Columbia met for two days to debate reforms to safely reduce incarceration, while improving the lives and wellbeing of individuals living with mental health challenges.
The participants learned and brainstormed together while also hearing from local and national leaders. Former public defender and national mental health advocate, Judge Steven Leifman of Miami-Dade, Florida, gave the summit’s inspiring keynote presentation on opportunities for criminal justice reform. On the following day, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper presented to event participants and participated in a rousing dialogue about opportunities for new policy and reform in his state, and nationally.
Throughout the course of the two-day summit of NAPD leaders, the group shared best practices and proposed solutions to common problems faced by defenders nationwide. Resources provided by the group have been assembled and archived, and can be found on the Equitas Project website. At the conclusion of the event, the group drafted a list of priority directives which were published in June 2018.
The directives and best practices may be used by indigent defense leaders to educate and inform their systems as well as policy makers. For instance, Doug Wilson from Colorado has distributed the Colorado and NAPD priorities to leaders inside and outside the Colorado public defender system. Additionally, Colorado has provided the best practices and priorities to stakeholders and allies in order to further the discussion about mental health and the criminal court system. Colorado for Course Corrections: National Public Defenders Summit on Mental Health and Criminal Justice was organized and hosted by The Equitas Project, The National
Association for Public Defense, and the Office of the State Public Defender, Douglas K. Wilson, Colorado Public Defender.
Please review these directives and share them with your agencies and community partners.

Comments and questions are welcome and should be directed to the Equitas Project at