The Southern Center for Human Rights, a preeminent civil rights organization, engages in litigation, public education, and advocacy to defend persons sentenced to death and protect the civil rights of indigent defendants and inmates. Created in 1976 and located in Atlanta, Georgia, the Center is led by Stephen Bright, a leading opponent of capital punishment and recipient of numerous awards for advocacy on behalf of indigent persons.
The Center, which challenges discrimination against minorities, the poor, the mentally ill, and other disempowered persons, focuses its work in five areas: representing, at trial and on appeal, persons facing the death penalty; challenging unconstitutional conditions in prisons, jails, and children’s institutions including physical and sexual assaults, deprivation of food and life-sustaining medication, and severe overcrowding; advocating for adequate legal representation for indigent defendants; advocating for judicial independence, particularly from electoral political pressures; and helping empower prisoners’ families.
In addition to litigation in state and federal courts, the Center’s staff has testified before Congress and state legislative bodies, taught at law schools, prepared reports and articles, engaged in community organizing, and worked with other organizations and the media to address criminal justice and corrections issues. Former Center attorneys have gone on to lead human rights organizations across the South, including the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama, the Louisiana Crisis Assistance Center, and the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana.
Formerly called the Southern Prisoners’ Defense Committee, the Center is a private, nonprofit organization and is known for its egalitarian ethic and modest operational expenses.
SANJAY K. CHHABLANI
References and Further Reading