Brendon Woods, Alameda County’s new public defender, is determined to raise the profile of his office and speak out on behalf of indigent defendants.
The previous public defender, Diane Bellas, who ran the office for twelve years, rarely took stances on major issues, and her reticence to engage in public affairs represented a stark contrast to San Francisco County Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who takes very public positions on criminal justice matters and law enforcement misconduct.
But Woods is determined to change that. The first African-American public defender in Alameda County history is intent on reaching out to the public and engaging in policy issues in a manner that promises to reshape the local discourse on criminal justice, which often has been polarized between those who want police accountability and those who want more tough-on-crime measures.
Woods is also overhauling the Public Defender’s Office’s internal practices in ways that promise to not only strengthen the legal representation of indigent criminal defendants, but also provide them with meaningful services and opportunities aimed at reducing recidivism and getting them on the right track.