Today on Public Defenseless, I had an amazing opportunity to speak with Aisha McWeay, Executive Director of Still She Rises. With the large majority of people going through the criminal processing system being young men, we often forget the unique challenges that women, and especially mothers face in our criminal processing system. Still She Rises seeks to fill that gap in representation and care by being  the first holistic defense office in the country dedicated exclusively to the representation of mothers in both the criminal and civil legal systems.
Simply by speaking with other public defenders around the country, I realized that each and every client has unique needs that often cannot be met without a dedicated, expert team capable of assisting clients make informed decisions about the direction of the their representation, but hearing about the level of detail and care each one of Still She Rise's clients gets is both heart warming and saddening at the same time. On one hand, its amazing that people like Aisha and her team are making such a meaningful impact to the Tulsa community. On the other, it saddened me greatly when we covered the disparity between what her clients get and what the likely level of care those who are processed through the traditional public defender system.
For decades, Oklahoma has under funded and under staffed their Public Defender system. Created in the mid-90's the Office of Indigent Defense Services (OIDS) has never been funded or empowered to the proper levels to provide the holistic representation practices Still She Rises is pioneering in the state. While Tulsa and OKC exist outside of the purview of OIDS control, each city faces the same problem any city does that does not get adequate support from the state: high caseloads, high turnover, and simply not enough time to dedicate to each client. That is why I loved this episode so much. Aisha gives me hope that no matter how bad the situation may seem, a few people with enough dedication, skill, and desire can make a difference in our fight for a more justice legal system.
NOTE: This episode was recorded on March 17th, 2022
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