Protect Your People

How Ordinary Families Are Using Participatory Defense to Challenge Mass Incarceration

An eye-opening look at “participatory defense,” the innovative practice that allows the loved ones of those charged with crimes to help influence the outcome of court cases, by the MacArthur Award–winning activist

“Raj Jayadev of Silicon Valley De-Bug is creating a grassroots model that empowers individuals facing incarceration to work with their families and communities and play an active role in their defense.” —MacArthur Foundation announcement

The courthouse is an important part of every story of mass incarceration in America and, too often, it is a place of powerlessness for those facing criminal charges, their families, and their communities. But the courthouse can also be an important site of resistance, a place where Americans affected by incarceration can become agents of change—even though they are not lawyers or judges. Writing for those new to activism and seasoned organizers alike, celebrated criminal justice advocate Raj Jayadev provides a comprehensive introduction to participatory defense, the incredibly effective community organizing model that leads to better outcomes for criminal cases, shifting power in courtrooms along the way.

In lively, accessible prose, Jayadev presents remarkable stories from organizers across the country who demonstrate how participatory defense has led to acquittals, dismissed and reduced charges, and prison terms replaced by rehabilitation programs. Lifting up a radical vision of community intervention, Protect Your People also addresses bail hearings, deportation cases, and youth threatened with transfer to adult court, showing that real change is possible when ordinary people step into America’s courtrooms and get involved.

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