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Community-Oriented Defender Network

Published: January 6, 2014

For upcoming COD events and and updates, please refer to NLADA.

The Community-Oriented Defender (COD) Network was created in 2003 to mark the 40th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark Supreme Court case that is the foundation of an indigent defendant’s right to counsel. The COD Network has grown from eight members to a coalition of more than 100 public defender offices and related service providers. We are united in our belief that representation of people charged with crimes is more effective when it is “holistic” and when defenders have a deep engagement with clients and their communities.

As our country has forced the criminal justice system to take on an ever-widening array of responsibilities, defenders must grow past their traditional limits. With nearly one in four Americans having a criminal record of conviction, and the United States leading the world in both per capita and absolute numbers of incarcerated people, innovative responses to criminal justice system issues are of critical importance to our entire society. Because they have a unique vantage point from which to witness how policy choices play out in residents’ lives, community-oriented defenders can also perform an essential function by educating the media and the public about what the government’s role should be with respect to the criminal justice system.

To meet these challenges, community-oriented defenders seek to expand their individual skill sets, to collaborate with community members, community-based organizations, schools, health care providers, and a broad range of other institutional players to assist clients achieve the best outcomes possible.  

The Community-Oriented Defender Network helps participating defenders engage in training to expand services, and engage with legislators, policy-makers and media in pursuit of policy reform in their communities, particularly in the area of racial justice. Among its activities, the Brennan Center partners with defender programs to research racial disparities in police and prosecution practices, works with defender programs to achieve racial justice reform, promotes best practices that constitute the Community-Oriented Defense model, and holds a yearly convening of participating defenders