Nashville-Davidson Co Public Defender
The Public Defender Office represents clients who cannot afford to hire a lawyer in General Sessions, Criminal and Juvenile Courts.
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Martesha L. Johnson
What qualifies you as the best candidate for this office?
What are the most pressing issues facing the public that you plan to address?
What will be your top priority if you are elected and how will you achieve that goal?
I am best qualified to continue to serve as Nashville's Chief Public Defender. I have devoted my entire career to public defense. This role requires a dedicated, committed leader that is willing to be courageous in efforts to advocate for indigent people in Nashville. In my first term, we have increased the office's resources to improve our efforts to provide excellent, innovative advocacy to our clients. We have pushed for bail reform and have been integral in the efforts to decriminalize the mentally ill in Nashville. We led the call for incarcerated persons to be released from custody amid the impossibility of containing the spread of COVID-19 in carceral facilities and raised awareness to the injustices in this city.
The most pressing issues facing the public defender's office clients are those involving wealth based detention, disproportionate representation of minorities in the criminal legal system, inadequate resources for mental health and addiction services, barriers to re-entry for those returning to the community after periods of incarceration and workload concerns.
My priorities for my next term in office are to continue the fight to:
1) Eliminate wealth-based disparities in our criminal legal system, particularly related to bail.
2) Increase access to justice and ensure that a zealous defense can be provided for indigent people by continuing to fight for adequate resources for staff and administration of the public defender’s office.
3) End disproportionate criminalization of Black and other minorities in the legal system.
4) Provide alternatives to incarceration by appropriately resourcing community-based programs and mental health/addiction services.
5) Dismantle barriers to re-entry for individuals who have served sentences and provide easier pathways to restoration.
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