Florida Supreme Court Approves the Florida Justice Center as the First Criminal Legal Aid Organization in the State
The social justice nonprofit organization provides holistic legal, social, and mental health services, to help change the lives of justice-involved people every day.
OAKLAND PARK, Fla., January 5, 2021 (Newswire.com) - The Florida Justice Center (FLJC), a nonprofit legal and behavioral health organization, located in Oakland Park, Florida, was approved by the Supreme Court of Florida on December 1, 2020 as the first and only legal aid organization in the state authorized to practice criminal law.
FLJC combines legal representation with social and mental health services to treat the whole person and address the issues that brought them into the justice system in the first place.
Every year in the state of Florida, 700,000 people are arrested and apply for the services of a public defender to provide suitable legal representation.
FLJC realized an opportunity to help first-time offenders, people with the most to lose by a felony conviction, get out of jail and stay out of the justice system.
Inspired by their belief that everyone deserves a second chance, FLJC's designation from the Supreme Court of Florida enables the organization to hire attorneys to represent clients in court.
"I believe our purposes are bigger than we are individually. Florida Justice Center embodies that same belief by serving our community in ways that no other legal aid organization in Florida has," said Jessenia Rosales, Esq. of Tampa, FL - Attorney & FLJC Chairperson, "My passion to serve our community compelled me to join Florida Justice Center in carrying out its mission to help people who need a second chance to succeed. I'm honored to have assisted in establishing Florida Justice Center as the first criminal legal aid organization in Florida, and I'm excited to continue serving such a unique organization."
FLJC will give its clients an equal opportunity in court, access to basic social services, and provide personalized legal service that an overburdened public defender's office cannot.
This is due in part to the fact that they have had single attorney caseloads of over 400 felony cases, a significant increase from the Bar Association's recommendation of an attorney handling no more than 150 cases annually.
To live out its mission of changing lives by providing holistic legal, social, and mental health services, FLJC has already made an impact in the Florida legal system in a variety of ways including but not limited to:
- Provided defense attorneys to 19 clients (17 cases were dismissed or sent to diversion programs and two cases are still pending)
- Offered bail support to 32 individuals (monetary, information, or legal assistance)
- Re-enfranchised 24 previously ineligible voters in September and October
- 115 Pro-Bono attorneys have volunteered to handle cases
"For more than five years, I've conducted hundreds of interviews with inmates in the Florida Department of Corrections to gain deeper insights into the inequalities that are present in the justice system," said Jonathan Bleiweiss, FLJC Executive Director, "From these interviews, I quickly picked up on alarming patterns that pointed to feelings of underrepresentation with no true support to succeed. Since then, it's been my mission to give these people the chance that others never afforded them."
FLJC also uses the latest statistical data and evidence-based methods to address factors that lead to disproportionately high conviction and incarceration rates of marginalized communities.
Through this data, FLJC creates models that minimize a client's likelihood of being sentenced to incarceration, the length of incarceration, and lessens the rate of recidivism.
Learn more about how FLJC is helping people build better lives by visiting https://www.fljc.org/.
About the Florida Justice Center
Florida Justice Center is a nonprofit legal aid and behavioral health organization that is at the forefront of an emerging model of holistic legal services. By combining quality legal representation with social and mental health services, we are able to treat the whole person and address the issues that brought about their involvement in the justice system.
As the first and only legal aid organization in Florida authorized to practice criminal law, FLJC is uniquely situated to create meaningful individual and systemic change.
Name: Jonathan Bleiweiss
Organization: Florida Justice Center
Source: Florida Justice Center