The client I’m helping represent in the clinic may be getting out of the detention center. Its got me worried.

Our client (let’s call him “Client”) is, more than likely, a member of a sort of problematic street gang. His brother (who I’ll call “Brother”) is deep in the same gang. Whether Client is in, or a “future,” or just a “neutron” who gets protection from this gang is sort of irrelevant. Client’s position is precarious because of this gang. In front of the house where Grandma lives, and where Client and Brother were both raised, there is a threat spraypainted on the sidewalk by a rival gang, identifying it as the house where Brother lives and announcing a contract on his head. Terrific. The gang is also deeply concerned about what Client may or may not be telling the prosecutor about his co-defendants in the matter in which we represent him, and its unclear how far any loyalty to Client and Brother may extend in the face of adverse testimony. It’s a bad situation. Not a safe place.

But Grandma is moving! To a house! In a whole different town! And Brother is not coming with, because he’s currently incarcerated! This sounds promising, and it was this news that inspired the judge to hint that he might let Client go home to Grandma to wait for trial. Prsumably, the new house in the new town is at a location unknown to the aforementioned problematic street gang, and there is not yet a threat tagged onto the sidewalk. This is an improvement. But part of me is still worried.

We talked to Client the other day and asked him how he felt about this, how he felt about maybe getting to go home, except to a new house, not the old one. We told him where the new house was. He grinned. “Yeah, I wanna go home,” he said. “Definitely.”

Sasha, another member of our team, asked: “tell me, Client. Is this really far enough away? Is it really going to be different there?” She stopped short of asking the question on the mind of everyone in the room: “are you at risk of getting shot there, too? Are these guys going to find you?”

“Man, my grandma’s got it hard, it’s hard on her,” Client replied. “She’s doing the best she can. She has to do the best she can.”

Crap. Crappity crap crap. Client has never, NEVER shown any particular concern for Grandma before. We tried the “she’s had a tough life” tack with him once before, trying to convince him to settle down a little, stay out of the guns and drugs for a minute, and he was having none of it. This sudden outpouring of concern for Grandma, and insistence that this new house is the right place for them, pretty much confirmed for us that it’s too close to the old house, that the dangers are still real, that the chances of Client falling back in with his old crowd are high.

As soon as we left the interview room, Sasha hit the nail on the head: “He’s going to get out and catch another case within 30 minutes. And in a way I’ll be glad, because I’d rather that than dead.”

So we’ll go into court, and we’ll ask the judge to release Client to his Grandma, because that’s what he wants, and that’s our job, to represent his interests. Then we’ll all go home and pray that he makes it to trial.

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