Criminal Justice Reform
The Quixote Center advocates for a justice system that seeks to return balance to relationships and within communities impacted by crime; to move beyond punitive action to restoration. The Quixote Center has been a home to many effective criminal justice initiatives over the years. We are currently exploring new ways for the Center to be a unique and impactful voice for transformation.
The Capital Defense Handbook
For many years the Quixote Center has worked with people behind bars who have strong claims to innocence. Much of this work has been with people facing the death penalty or serving life without parole. A product of this experience is the Capital Defense Handbook, a resource to help individuals navigate the criminal justice system. The Handbook discusses how to craft appeals, how to contact innocence projects, and an overview of procedures done in different states in order to understand the justice system. We send out The Handbook throughout the United States to those incarcerated and family members looking for help in navigating an often opaque system. To request a Capital Defense Handbook message us here.
The Quixote Center’s work on the justice system has in many ways been to provide an incubator to projects that go on to have a life of their own. In the late 1970’s the Center provided a home to lawyers Daniel Sheehan, Sarah Nelson, and Jesuit priest William Davis while they prepared a landmark lawsuit on behalf of Karen Silkwood’s family against nuclear industry giant Kerr-McGee. Following the success of the suit in 1979, Sheehan and his team established the Christic Institute and would go on to pursue many important cases in public interest law. In the 1990s the Center began work on Mumia Abu Jamal’s case. Though the Center eventually stopped working on the case at Mumia’s request, Noelle Hanrahan would go on to launch the Prison Radio Project, giving voice to those incarcerated including regular radio spots and podcasts from Mumia.
The longest standing criminal justice program of the Quixote Center was the Equal Justice USA program (EJUSA) was focused on abolishing the death penalty. Under the leadership of Jane Henderson and then Shari Silberstein, the program would see a series of successes in state campaigns to end the death penalty. With success came growth, and in 2008 the program decided to separate from the Quixote Center. EJUSA is now a national force in ending the death penalty and is also pioneering other approaches to community action to address (and treat) the roots of trauma in communities impacted by violence.