WHO WE ARE
Giving men and women a second chance by providing them with quality legal representation, bail assistance, connections to social services, and the tools they need to succeed.
WHAT WE BELIEVE
Florida Justice Center is a nonprofit organization that is at the forefront of an emerging model of legal aid representation.
We strongly believe that everyone is entitled to a diligent defense, an equal opportunity in court, and a helping hand to be successful. Everyone makes mistakes and should be afforded a second chance, especially the youth of our society who have long lives ahead of them.
We are opposed to the criminalization of poverty and the mass incarceration of people of color. We are here to protect society’s vulnerable and build healthy, productive futures.
What We Do
Our organization combines quality legal representation with technology and statistical analysis to address factors leading to disproportionately high conviction rates for the poor and people of color, as well as connections to ancillary legal and social services to help prevent re-offending.
Additionally, Florida Justice Center is creating a new system to connect pro bono attorneys with clients in need of service.
While our primary focus is on first-time adult justice-involved individuals, we consider all low-income individuals for assistance through the legal representation and Florida Bail Fund programs.
We will treat every client with respect.
We will mount a vigorous defense for each of our clients by using our referral network to locate pro bono attorneys that have a passion for defending those who need help the most.
We will not deny service to any qualifying individuals unless staffing or funding levels do not permit us to take any additional cases.
We will keep our caseload artificially low so that each client gets the attention they deserve.
Every client will meet with both their attorney and case manager. They will have access to both as often as necessary.
If we have available funds to assist with bail, we will help get them out of jail.
Florida Justice Center is a unique organization based on a proven, but not widespread, notion: the Public Defender’s Office needs help, the poor and people of color receive disparate sentencing, and once people have been arrested they have difficulty rebuilding their lives. Inspired by the founder’s experience in the justice system, as a police officer and a defendant, Florida Justice Center starts a new tradition of social justice in South Florida.
Starting in 2015, Jonathan Bleiweiss (Founder & Executive Director) has conducted hundreds of interviews with inmates in the Florida Department of Corrections to determine:
- The causation of their criminality
- If they received adequate legal representation
- What they felt their lawyer could have done better
- If they felt discriminated against or treated differently, and why
- What would keep them from re-offending
After all of these discussions, a pattern emerged which led to several clear commonalities: Those that were poor and of color felt they never had a chance at avoiding prison, most had a public defender, most never met with their attorney until the day of trial, and they all wished someone had provided them with the support necessary to succeed.
Having had his eyes opened to the extreme socioeconomic and racial inequality in the justice system, Jonathan was compelled to found the Florida Justice Center and give clients the chance that others were never afforded. He wanted to give them the support that they need to succeed. The Florida Justice Center gives that support.