By Aswad Walker
Founded in 2016, Restoring Justice is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in Houston that provides holistic and client-centered representation to marginalized members of our community facing criminal charges. This includes the provision of expert criminal defense legal representation, social services, trauma-informed counseling, spiritual support, volunteer connections, and more.
Monique Joseph, the Holistic Services Director of Restoring Justice, said the organization’s mission is to pursue Christ’s justice by ending mass incarceration one client and heart at a time.
“We take cases of those who are receiving inadequate legal representation and offer them client-centered, holistic representation, free of charge,” said Joseph.
“Restoring Justice is a nonprofit created in Houston by Drew and Jessica Willie. We work to take on cases of people who have overloaded court-appointed attorneys, and we provide them with a holistic, client-centered attorney. Along with that attorney, our clients receive holistic resource connections through client advocates,” shared Joseph.
“These are folks who are directly affected and who have overcome their own path and legal system with mental health or drug use. We pair them with our clients to help them get the resources they need. Each client is also given free trauma-informed counseling. They’re also paired with a volunteer from the community who helps walk with them through their case. And what we see is that more times than not, a lot of our clients are able to get their cases dismissed, their charges dropped, or have really minimum sentences, and are able to get back on their feet a lot quicker.”
As a grassroots, human-centered organization, Restoring Justice also takes community engagement seriously and routinely participates in educational endeavors and innovative collaborations that bolster the criminal justice reform movement.
At issue is the fact that though a foundational principle of the U.S. criminal justice system is that accused individuals are innocent unless proven guilty, over 555,000 people who are presumed innocent are detained pre-trial. These are the people who are locked up in Harris County jail and other jails across the country, as opposed to individuals who are in prison (they have been found guilty).
And though the U.S. Constitution requires that people classified as “indigent,” meaning too poor to afford an attorney, be provided one, in Texas alone, nearly 315,000 people were appointed what activists call “mere shadows of proper representation” last year.
This current reality of hundreds of thousands of people in Texas alone being appointed attorneys with too many cases to adequately represent all their clients, indigent felony accused (yet still innocent) people will serve, on average, an extra 4.33 years of unjust incarceration, totaling 455,267 years of unnecessary incarceration in Texas – from just one year of operating the system of overloading court appointments.
But not only does the current system penalize the poor in years of unjust incarceration time, it also hurts the entire state economy.
Roughly $149 billion per year is wasted on unnecessary incarceration costs.
Restoring Justice seeks to end all that.
“We strive to pursue all kinds of criminal justice reform, with a focus on removing racial disparities and reforming the indigent defense system,” reads a statement from the organization’s website.