Based by Jelani Anglin, Good Name is a tech hybrid taking up mass incarceration within the U.S. by offering early entry to authorized assist. Although at the moment only one% of individuals have entry to counsel on the level of arrest, Good Name’s free hotline service connects arrestees to a free lawyer and may also replace members of the family on their state of affairs. Right here, Jelani tells Ashoka’s Simon Stumpf why early contact with an lawyer is important and discusses how tech may also help dismantle the prison-industrial complicated.
Simon Stumpf: Take us again to the start of your work, Jelani. What did you see that others did not?
Jelani Anglin: I used to be arrested at 16 years outdated. My associates and I — all of us younger Black males — have been purportedly being too loud on a practice. It was a traumatizing incident, however it led me to attach with different folks in my group who had been arrested. What did all of us have in frequent? All of us wished we had been linked to authorized counsel sooner within the course of. We wished we had gotten some assist from an lawyer and recognized what to do earlier than being interrogated. As a result of the consequence of individuals not getting the counsel they deserve, not getting a good shot in our authorized system, is typically getting their complete life taken away.
Stumpf: You’ve described Good Name’s supply as an “early authorized intervention.” How does the arrest course of work and why is early intervention so important?
Anglin: Once you’re arrested, you are dropped at a precinct, stripped of your belongings and given the chance to make a name, however solely to a quantity you’ll be able to bear in mind off the highest of your head — and the way many people recall any numbers with out our cell telephones, proper? So this typically leads to not having any sort of assist. People are interrogated by police and coerced into signing statements beneath duress. With Good Name, what we’re offering is speedy entry to an lawyer when people first arrive within the precinct. That lawyer can invoke their consumer’s sixth modification proper to illustration and cease the interrogation course of till a lawyer is current, giving people the possibility to make a greater protection.
Stumpf: What know-how have you ever constructed to facilitate that intervention?
Anglin: It begins with a hotline quantity, which a member of the family or the arrested social gathering can name immediately. The hotline operator informs us of the arrest, and that permits us to attach the individual going through prices with an lawyer who can cease the interrogation course of. That additionally permits us to ship the consumer’s data to the lawyer who will probably be on the arraignment shift.
When an lawyer solely sees their consumer on the arraignment shift, that offers them about 5 minutes to give you a protection. With our know-how, the lawyer receives all of the consumer’s primary data early on, permitting extra time to collect pertinent particulars and mount a protection.
One other key piece of our know-how is an emergency contact database. People can save emergency contacts forward of time, within the occasion that they’re arrested. On that very same name with an lawyer, they will truly ship a textual content message to their family members by way of the lawyer, letting them know of the arrest.
Stumpf: How is it working? Are you gaining customers?
Anglin: We’re at the moment getting a pair hundred calls a month, however we wish to do extra. We’re a scrappy group, and we’d prefer to develop our outreach staff. We’re seeing a lot of word-of-mouth, natural development. This 12 months we put up billboards throughout New York Metropolis. Every billboard with the hotline quantity introduced us about 70,000 impressions per week. And we’re not saying that everybody who learn that quantity goes to get arrested sooner or later, however simply having folks know this useful resource is on the market — that’s the narrative shift we’re attempting to create.
Stumpf: Are you seeing a political shift in favor of your work?
Anglin: Yeah, we’re originally of an understanding that there must be extra assist, sooner. For instance, California Coverage Lab did a research discovering that when people have entry to authorized illustration, it will increase the probability of them being launched on their very own recognizance by over 50%. So whereas we’re nonetheless behind the mark, we’re seeing a shift throughout the nation on the coverage facet. Three states have handed laws mandating early entry to counseling. Fifteen extra states have not too long ago put it ahead.
Stumpf: How, as a “scrappy” group, are you scaling your resolution to land in additional locations?
Anglin: For the previous six years, we have finished this as a nonprofit and we have been fortunate sufficient to boost over $4 million in donations and grants. However now, after doing the analysis and growth, we imagine that we are able to scale quicker as a hybrid non-profit/for-profit entity. We are able to rent people who’ve been formally incarcerated, as a result of these with proximity to the difficulty are those closest to the answer. Elevating cash from impression buyers as a for-profit, hiring extra engineers and constructing extra know-how will permit us to essentially develop and supply several types of assist.
For instance, we’re beginning to obtain calls from the border round immigration points. Why not use our know-how in different conditions which might be arrest-adjacent? There are ACS points, immigration points, housing points which will end in arrests. People who’re marginalized in these areas are additionally missing assist. So our know-how might be used to place the facility of their palms.
Stumpf: How will issues look completely different in 5 years, 10 years?
Anglin: Now we have plans to construct an app that can assist people navigate higher by the system. It’s wild to suppose that at the moment you’ll be able to monitor a pizza, however you’ll be able to’t discover a cherished one if they’re arrested. There’s extra innovation on the facet of incarcerating humanity than there may be for serving to people get out.
Stumpf: Jelani, what’s highly effective about your contribution right here is that it calls out the place the system is seemingly designed to fail folks. And you have talked concerning the necessity of pushing coverage adjustments, not simply ready for this scale of incarceration to cave beneath its personal weight.
Anglin: Sadly, it’s by no means going to cave beneath its personal weight. It is a for-profit system in a capitalist nation — a booming enterprise. There are over 12 million people incarcerated yearly, 500,000 sitting in jail proper now with out even being convicted of a criminal offense. Taxpayers pay over $14 billion yearly to incarcerate these people. Jail labor, which is near slavery, helps to drive our financial system.
This technique feeds off of individuals being poor. Your finest protection is solely to be prosperous, to have a lawyer at your fingertips. It’s all these people with out sources who’re the grist to the mass incarceration system. So if we wish to sluggish the system and finally kill it, it begins on the precinct.
This interview was condensed by Ashoka.