WHO WE ARE
To change lives by providing holistic legal, social, and mental health services.
What we do
Florida Justice Center is a nonprofit legal aid and behavioral health organization that is at the forefront of an emerging model of holistic legal services. By combining quality legal representation with social and mental health services, we are able to treat the whole person and address the issues that brought about their involvement in the justice system.
As the first and only legal aid organization in Florida authorized to practice criminal law, FLJC is uniquely situated to create meaningful individual and systemic change.
HOW WE DO IT
Using the latest statistical data and evidence-based methods we address factors leading to disproportionately high conviction and incarceration rates of marginalized communities.
With this data, we can create models that minimize a client’s likelihood of being sentenced to incarceration, the length of incarceration, and lessen the rate of recidivism.
What we Believe
We strongly believe that everyone is entitled to a diligent defense and a helping hand to be successful. Our services act as a stepping stone to aid those facing institutional obstacles.
We believe that everyone deserves an equal opportunity in court, access to basic social services, and to be treated like a person.
We are an anti-racist organization that opposes the mass incarceration of people of color, the criminalization of the impoverished, and all forms of discrimination based on gender identity, sex, age, racial and ethnic identities, sexual identity, socioeconomic status, and religion.
We are here to protect society’s vulnerable and to build healthy, productive futures.
HOW IT BEGAN
Florida Justice Center is a unique organization that is based on the notions that the Public Defender’s Office needs help, marginalized communities receive disparate sentencing, and once people have been arrested they have difficulty rebuilding their lives.
Inspired by the founder’s experience in the justice system, as a police officer and then as a defendant, Florida Justice Center starts a new tradition of social justice in South Florida.
Starting in 2015, founder and Executive Director Jonathan Bleiweiss conducted hundreds of interviews with inmates in the Florida Department of Corrections to determine:
- The causation of their justice involvement and what could have kept them from being arrested;
- The quality of their legal representation;
- If they felt discriminated against or treated differently, and why;
- What would help keep them from future justice involvement.
A pattern soon emerged which led to several clear commonalities: Those that were poor and of color frequently felt as though prison was unavoidable, they were assigned a public defender, most never met with their attorney until the day of trial, many lacked access to behavioral health services, and they all wished someone had provided them with the support necessary to succeed.
Having had his eyes opened to the inequities in the justice system, Jonathan was compelled to open the Florida Justice Center and give clients the chance that others never afforded them. The Florida Justice Center gives them the support that they need to succeed.