Participatory Defense is a community organizing model for people facing charges and their loved ones to impact the outcomes of cases. Through this model, we transform the landscape of power in the court system. Participatory Defense is guided by three principles, developed at the first National Participatory Defense Gathering in 2016:
Family and community strength can play a pivotal role in stopping and reducing incarceration. Through collective action, we can change how people navigate isolating court processes.
Families and communities are powerful when taking the role of organizer and agent of change.
By working on individual cases, communities can build the movement of directly impacted people holding courts accountable and making systemic change.
Participatory Defense Values
The West Philly Participatory Defense Hub empowers participants facing criminal charges to participate in their own defense. We do this with the leadership of people directly impacted by the criminal injustice system and other committed community members.
Hub meetings are a non-judgemental space. We are not here to judge anyone's guilt or innocence. We're here to offer information, resources, and support. We aim to support each person in getting the best possible outcome for their case. What defines a “win” will look different for each case.
This is a trust-based process grounded in relationship-building among hub members. We encourage all who can to attend multiple meetings.
Every member of our hub community has expertise to offer. Any person at the hub is welcome to take on a role, create a role, or join our core organizing team - particularly those directly impacted by the criminal injustice system.
We recognize that the criminal injustice system is rooted in racism, white supremacy, patriarchy, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, classism, and all mechanisms of oppression. We strive to uproot oppressive mechanisms so as not to replicate them in our hub structure.
Participatory Defense is a community organizing model developed by Silicon Valley De-Bug in San Jose, CA. De-Bug has been sharing the model of Participatory Defense across the country since 2009. There are now hubs in over 25 cities across the country and several in Philadelphia.
The West Philly Hub began in August 2018 with meetings every Thursday evening at the Kingsessing Recreation Center. The Hub was started by Reclaim Philadelphia’s Mass Liberation Project. In 2019 West Philly Hub decided to fly solo. We became an independent, volunteer-run organization continuing our commitment to building community for people facing charges across Philadelphia and beyond. In February 2020 the Human Rights Coalition became our fiscal sponsor. We now run hybrid meetings on zoom and in person at the Elmwood Methodist Community Church.