Healing Injustice Conference - University of Houston
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The Healing Injustice Conference is a two-day event being held in the Honors College at the University of Houston, and generously funded by the Elizabeth D. Rockwell Center on Ethics and Leadership (EDR) at the Hobby School of Public Affairs.

The United States (U.S.) leads the world in a grim statistic: approximately 6.5 million people incarcerated or under criminal justice supervision (e.g., probation, parole). Moreover, the affected population is disproportionately comprised of people of color, people with disabilities, and people living in poverty. The right to a defense attorney when someone is charged with a crime is enshrined in the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. However, the quality of this defense is often inadequate due to under-resourcing, raising questions about people's constitutional rights.

Holistic indigent defense refers to approaches that engage “teams of professionals that address a range of the client’s needs rather than simply a heroic solitary lawyer who represents a defendant solely at criminal trial.” This approach attempts to address not only clients’ legal needs, but also seeks to ameliorate the impact of arrest and incarceration (e.g., employment, housing, nutrition, access to health care). 

This is a groundbreaking conference that brings together lawyers, social workers, community health workers, human services professionals, students, and data scientists to engage with the possibilities of reshaping the way that people without economic means experience legal representation. 

The Healing Injustice Conference aims to:
1) Revolutionize how holistic defense data is captured and utilized,
2) Reimagine the role of social services and mental wellness care across the defense process, and
3) Conceptualize what holistic defense training would look like for lawyers.

The event will include keynote speakers Antong Lucky and Dr. James McLeary.

We invite lawmakers, lawyers, social workers, community health workers, human services professionals, students, and data scientists to participate in this conversation.

Conference registration is free and open to the public. Breakfast, lunch, and coffee will be provided to in-person participants.

Please contact healing-injustice@uh.edu if you have questions or need more information.


Healing Injustice: Innovating Holistic Defense Conference

The University of Houston is proud to announce the Healing Injustice: Innovating Holistic Defense Conference at a time when the momentum behind holistic defense for those unable to pay has never been greater. While the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution establishes the right to legal representation, the quality of the representation available to those living in poverty is often inadequate. 

The stress placed on the U.S. public defense systems means that the justice system frequently works very differently for those with means than those without. Moreover, it has been recognized that people in the criminal justice system often have needs far beyond legal defense itself, and a holistic defense improves case outcomes and reduces recidivism by better addressing clients’ underlying needs.

Holistic defense was established in the 1990s as a paradigm for the legal representation of indigent clients. It was created to advance a client-centered, comprehensive approach to criminal defense that contrasts with the traditional public defense model that emphasizes criminal representation and courtroom advocacy. Holistic representation requires an interdisciplinary team that addresses the underlying needs of clients and ensures better long-term outcomes that include not just criminal defense lawyers and related support staff such as investigators and paralegals but also civil, family, and immigration lawyers, as well as social workers and nonlawyer advocates — all working collectively and on an equal footing with each other.

By seeking to ameliorate the impact of arrest and incarceration (e.g., employment, housing, nutrition, access to health care), holistic defense strives to stabilize lives, reduce recidivism and create safer communities. Despite the evidence-based support for this model and increased interest in holistic defense, there continues to be sluggishness in its widespread adoption, as it currently exists in isolated jurisdictions. Facilitating its widespread adoption will require establishing definitions and enumerating best practices. It is towards this aim that this ambitious conference offers three studios.


Headshot of Antong Lucky

Antong Lucky

Upon the first look at Antong Lucky’s background, would you have believed in him, or in the possibility of what he would become? 

Most people would say no, and perhaps Antong would not have believed in himself if he would have believed the judge who labeled him as a “menace to society.” But a few people said yes. It inspired him to believe in himself and to turn his life around. Now, Antong is inspiring people across the country to see the good within themselves and others.  

Raised in the projects in the worst part of Dallas, Antong was on a pathway that led from poverty to violence from the day he was born.  


Headshot of James McLeary

James McLeary, Ph.D.

James McLeary' experience working with elders and mentors across multiple continents and cultures, his life growing up on the streets of Chicago, and his work with inmates at Folsom Prison has given him an unparalleled understanding of what men need to grow, change, lead, endure, and most of all, help themselves and the world around them. 

James is an expert facilitator whose leadership has been a critical force driving the growth and success of programs at both Folsom State Prison and San Quentin State Prison. He is the executive producer of the documentary, THE WORK. He brings deep expertise in group process work and its application in varied settings. As a member of the elder council, James provides direction and guidance for incarcerated and released men.