I learned two things at a young age. 1. Everyone needs (clean!) underwear and 2. I had terrible vision and would need glasses for my entire life.
Twenty or so years later, these truths still hold. Underwear and glasses, for me at least, are still necessary. What's different though? Well, I'm no longer a kid, and I work in the real world now. I spend every day serving criminal legal system-impacted individuals in Yolo County as a Client Advocate at the Public Defender's Office. I meet with clients both in and out of custody, and I've cultivated a deep awareness of my clients' needs.
When clients are released from jail, I gather clothing for their re-entrance into the community since most people enter and leave jail with only the clothes on their backs. I rely on Yolo County community members to donate their gently used clothes. However, I quickly realized no one donates underwear. That's just unsanitary. And, rarely, will people go out and buy underwear to donate when they can donate other used clothing. I'm on a mission to ensure that every person leaving jail has clean underwear.
While meeting with clients in-custody, I've also noticed that several have trouble seeing. The jail's medical staff is so under resourced that they cannot afford an eye doctor. But the ability to see can be central to a client's constitutional right to participate in their defense. Many clients need reading glasses to read police reports or other evidence that their public defender brings them. I've also noticed how reading glasses can be crucial to a client's sense of joy. When I meet with clients in custody, I bring cartoons, puzzles, or news articles to help my client smile, laugh, or feel human again. But if a client's vision is so poor that they cannot see these fun or humanizing activities without reading glasses, we are often at a loss. I am striving to fill in this gap by purchasing reading glasses for the hundreds of men and women incarcerated at the Yolo County Jail.
Funded by San Francisco, CA (November 2022)