Image by Bill Oxford



Developed at the First National Participatory Defense Gathering in October 2016, Participatory Defense is guided by three principles: 

FAMILY and COMMUNITY STRENGTH can play a pivotal role in stopping and reducing incarceration for a loved one and a community.

Families and communities can be even more powerful when taking the role of ORGANIZER AND AGENT OF CHANGE, rather than service recipient. 

By working on individual cases, communities can BUILD THE MOVEMENT of directly impacted peoples to hold the actors of the court accountable, make systemic change, and ultimately end mass incarceration.

The violence of the criminal justice system continues to injure people beyond their initial contact with police, to incarceration to the collateral consequences that prevent people from fully exercising their citizenship such as voting to employment and etc.  For us, the connection of marching in the streets to oppose police violence, to standing with the community in the courtroom to challenge mass incarceration to building communities’ capacity to create the programs, policies and practices that foster community safety, joy and stability, go hand in hand.  And we recognize that any effort to change the system, must be led by the very people most impacted by the harm. That is why we have partnered with the National Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls and the Silicon Valley De-Bug to provide Participatory Defense in Mississippi and throughout the South. Led by the very families whose loved ones are facing charges in the system, participatory defense is a community organizing model for people facing charges, their families, and communities to impact the outcome of cases and transform the landscape of power in the court system.  It is a model that has been developed in the last eleven years in San Jose, CA. Since then, Silicon Valley De-Bug has shared the model and participatory defense is being implemented in various cities across the country, including now in Mississippi.


To learn more about how you can join this movement in Mississippi, email us at or call 601.885.3240. Below are our current Participatory Defense Campaigns.


Leonard Henderson

Mississippi Women’s Clemency Campaign


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