Sam McCann, Neighborhood Defender Service,

(DETROIT, MI) – The Neighborhood Defender Service of Detroit (NDS) today announced the opening of its community intake program. Effective immediately, NDS will provide representation at no cost to Wayne County residents who believe they are going to be arrested or who have just been arrested. 

Community intake is a game changer for Detroit residents. Generally, court-appointed defense attorneys who represent poor clients begin their work at arraignment, when a judge assigns an attorney to a criminal case. This occurs many hours, sometimes days, after a client is arrested. However, defense work done in the period between arrest and the first court appearance can have a tremendous impact on the outcome of a criminal case, and this systemic delay faced by indigent defendants puts them at great disadvantage. The Community Intake practice will allow NDS to do this essential work on behalf of Detroiters as soon as possible, leading to fewer people unjustly held and safer communities.

NDS has operated a similar service in its Harlem office for decades. This proven tool allows NDS attorneys, social workers, client advocates, investigators and team administrators to intercede on the client’s behalf with law enforcement before arrest, negotiate surrenders where appropriate and protect the safety of our clients. Given that police interactions are especially dangerous for our Black clients, this ability to intercede early on their behalf will protect Black and Brown Detroiters. 

NDS is launching this critical service on Juneteenth, a celebration of the abolition of slavery in the United States and the freedom of Black Americans across the country. That freedom has yet to be fully realized because of the structural racism our clients and neighbors endure daily. Over 70% of NDS clients here in Wayne County are Black people and NDS bears witness to the racism and injustice they suffer in our courtrooms every day. Early access to zealous representation is not a panacea for deep-seated racism, but can serve as a counterbalance in a legal system weighted against our Black clients. 

“Juneteenth is meant to be a celebration of freedom, but too many of our neighbors are not free. This year in particular, Juneteenth is a call to action,” said Chantá Parker, Managing Director of NDS Detroit. “Black liberation is hampered by a racist criminal legal system that our team at NDS fights against every day. By launching Community Intake today, we recognize the need for a new tool to continue this work and serve the Black community of Detroit.” 

Wayne County residents can engage NDS services immediately by calling: 313-474-3200, Monday through Friday 10:30am-4:30pm.