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implementing the demands of justice


Martin Luther King, Jr leading a march

"True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."

Martin Luther King, Jr signature


We represent the poor and vulnerable.

We use that representation to identify and research the systems that perpetuate poverty and punish the poor.

Then—with courts, schools, police, community, and clients—we craft, implement, test, and replicate the remedies to those systemic causes.


The criminal justice system is broken. We can fix it.

Over-criminalization and reliance on retributive punishment have resulted in a system of oppression that entrenches poverty and harms those on the margins. By shifting to an access-to-opportunity model, we can address the root causes of offending behavior and simultaneously improve lives to verifiably enhance public safety and reduce recidivism.

SOCD client holding a sign that says, "I'm very happy to have been part of this program. It gives me hope to get my life on track and be a better person.

Street Outreach Court Detroit

In 2011, Street Democracy led an effort to establish a specialty homeless court in Detroit that credits the efforts of defendants to address the roots causes of their homelessness against outstanding fines and costs. We currently serve as the court's defense counsel. Since its inception in 2012, SOCD has helped over 400 people end their homelessness. Learn More


Born from our work in SOCD, Functional Sentencing seeks to replace the traditional system of fines and costs with targeted interventions—such as, job training and GED classes—for all defendants in need. By adopting Functional Sentencing, courts can achieve specialty court-level public safety gains at a fraction of the cost. Learn More.

Smiling family after completing their functional sentence and getting relief.

Young woman holding new forms
Jacquelyn, a former staff member, showing off the new court forms we petitioned the Michigan Supreme Court to revise so that they clearly notify defendants of their right to a payment alternative.

Court Watch

Court Watch is our effort to discover the policies and practices that serve to deny equal access to the courts. From those observations, we advocate for changes to court rules, forms, and informal practice.

Play icon, link to youtube video

Watch our clients Dennis, Lesia, and Mecca testify with our former colleague (now judge) Patti before the Michigan Supreme Court to advocate for a new court rule to end pay-or-stay sentencing.

Street Democracy team with clients in front of Michigan Supreme Court bench


While criminal justice reform is the core of our mission, we recognize that no issue can be addressed in isolation. So we collaborate with other community organizations and engage in a broad range of advocacy areas—from homelessness to the 'school-to-prison pipeline'.


Ending homelessness has been the underlying motivation for our work. We mitigate homelessness by (i) providing direct services to homeless veterans; (ii) providing policy and research support as a member of the Coalition to End Unconstitutional Tax Foreclosures; and (iii) advocating changes to regular landlord tenant court practice.


Street Democracy, with the ACLU of Michigan, Michigan State Conference NAACP, 482Forward, Michigan Protection & Advocacy Service, and Student Advocacy Center, leads an effort to provide schools consultation regarding new legislation ending zero-tolerance policies.

Worker Co-Ops

Worker cooperatives are businesses that allow workers to become owners with little barrier-to-entry. We work with our partner Grace-in-Action to incubate and grow worker cooperatives in SW Detroit.


Charles@ Hobbs

Charles directs our legal services program to homeless veterans and leads our education policy work. When he isn't here, he is either going down the slopes or in his pajamas binging on Netflix.

Keith@ McCallum

Keith, our paralegal, is the engine that makes Street Outreach Court Detroit go. You can find him at our offices with a can of Pringles ranch. Conversely, you will definitely not find him camping.

Jayesh Patel with daughter Jyoti

Jayesh@ Patel

Jayesh leads our advocacy efforts despite the constant ridicule from his family and colleagues for his undying commitment to the uniform.


Every quarter we step out of our offices to help an ally advance their mission, allowing us to listen, learn, and realign with our own raison d'etre, being truly community-driven advocates.

Outdoor picnic in Roosevelt Park, Detroit, Michigan

Providing legal services and food to homeless folk with our friends at Ark Association at Saturday @ Roosevelt Park

Sorting exit poll surveys in family room

Mixing Diwali and American Citizens for Justice/Asian American Center for Justice's voter protection work