Cody Cutting

  • Hosted by Southern Center for Human Rights
  • Sponsored by Lisa Foster and Alan Bersin
  • Service location Atlanta, Georgia
  • Law school New York University School of Law
  • Issue area Civil Rights/Civil Liberties
  • Fellowship class year 2019
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Cody will promote equal access to pretrial diversion for low-income people in Atlanta who are charged with crimes, creating a campaign for fair and affordable diversion services that can be replicated elsewhere in Georgia and beyond.

In theory, pretrial diversion is a laudable effort to channel people accused of minor offenses out of the criminal system. In practice, it is often blatantly discriminatory, permitting people of means to buy their way out of criminal charges while excluding those unable to pay substantial diversion fees. To make matters worse, in Georgia, and in Atlanta in particular, those fees are pocketed by private companies that function with little to no oversight. To maximize profits, the companies charge exorbitant fees and avoid indigency findings. Instead of granting all who qualify a second chance, privatized diversion penalizes thousands of Atlantans for their poverty, leading disproportionately to conviction, incarceration, and life-long consequences for those without the means to afford it.

With this project, Cody returns to the Southern Center for Human Rights, where he interned previously while fighting for the rights of the accused and the incarcerated. Through his experience in Atlanta, Cody has observed how contact with the criminal legal system falls heaviest on low-income Georgians, primarily people of color, and he is determined to elevate the voices and rights of these communities.

Fellowship Plans

Cody aims to reduce financial barriers to pretrial diversion programs to ensure that nobody is punished for a lack of financial means. First, Cody will build a grassroots coalition to support people impacted by financially burdensome diversion programs and develop a slate of best practices for diversion programs. Second,  connect with local partners to launch a legislative effort to adopt statewide oversight of private diversion companies and ensure fair access to diversion. Third, represent individuals who cannot make their diversion payments by filing motions for alternatives to payment or consideration of indigency and provide support to other potential litigation.

Nobody should be punished because they are poor. I am grateful to my sponsor and Equal Justice Works for the opportunity to advance that common-sense principle.

Cody Cutting /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

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Michelle Smith

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Sponsor: Texas Access to Justice Foundation