Welcome to the Choosing Justice Initiative
The Choosing Justice Initiative (CJI) is a Nashville non-profit law firm working to end wealth-based disparities in the criminal legal system. Cash bail, centuries-old structural racism, unfettered prosecutorial discretion, and judge-picked defense lawyers are just a few of the ways in which our so-called “justice” system routinely dehumanizes and perpetuates injustice upon poor people and people of color in the United States, in Tennessee, and in Nashville.
CJI seeks to shine a light on these injustices, to educate people who are unaware of them about the need for change, and to work alongside individuals and communities directly harmed by them to build new models of justice – ones that promote equity, solve problems, provide healing and empower people with choices beyond the status quo. CJI does this work by providing high-quality, holistic legal representation to people experiencing poverty and facing criminal charges in Nashville, and partnering with other justice organizations to pursue broader impact litigation and reform advocacy.
WHAT IS JUSTICE?
CJI’s vision is for a criminal legal system in Nashville where everyone experiences justice. What is justice?
Justice is not staying in jail because you are too poor to pay bail.
Justice is not getting arrested because you have no access to mental health treatment.
Justice is not living under a bridge because no one will rent an apartment to someone with your criminal record.
Justice is not being stopped by the police because of your zip code or the color of your skin.
Justice is not pleading guilty – even though you aren’t – because you do not trust your court-appointed lawyer or the courts.
Identifying injustice can be easy; defining justice can be a lot more difficult.
What justice means to each of us is influenced and shaped by our culture, our education, our family history, our spiritual beliefs, and our own life experiences. For some, it is punishment and retribution; for others, it is forgiveness and healing. Because of our differences, what looks and feels like justice to one person may very well look and feel like injustice to someone else.
The Choosing Justice Initiative exists to empower people without wealth to pursue and achieve the justice they seek in Nashville’s criminal legal system. For more about how we do that, check out “What We Do.”