Nonprofit Kalamazoo Defender signs contract for county public defender

    Non-profit Kalamazoo Defender signs contract for county public defender. (WWMT/file) <p>{/p}

    The Kalamazoo County government has finalized a contract with nonprofit Kalamazoo Defender to represent low income adults in criminal cases.

    The county announced the contract at a news conference on Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 12:30 p.m. at the Kalamazoo County Board Chambers.

    The executive director of Kalamazoo Defender explained that the contract will aid both attorneys and their clients in Kalamazoo County District Court.

    "The chief benefit is you'll have a single office where attorneys work together sharing resources," Executive Director Joshua Hilgart said. "You'll really have a learning, growing environment of attorneys."

    The decision came after decades of discussion by the Kalamazoo County Board, according to a statement from the board.

    “This partnership, while long overdue, is a giant step forward for equitable justice in our community,” Kalamazoo County Board Chairman Julie Rogers said in the statement.

    “We took great care to research the nation’s best practices and adapt them to the framework developed by the county. What distinguishes Kalamazoo Defender from many public defender models is our intent to represent each client holistically, addressing issues collateral to the criminal charge that might otherwise undermine a defendant’s effort to escape life on the margins, and, when convicted, avoid recidivism," Josh Hilgart said in a statement.

    Kalamazoo Defender is scheduled to begin taking cases by July 1, 2019.

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