We’re committed to making Defense Maps the most helpful resource possible in addressing three persistent problems contributing to wrongful convictions, uninformed and excessive sentences, and mass incarceration in America.
In deploying Defense Maps to address these deficiencies, we’re committed to working with leading figures in the advancement of fundamental fairness in America’s criminal justice system. These include not only animated defense attorneys and fellow charities but also compassionate and constitutionally dedicated corrections officials, prosecutors, and judges.
Our goals include universal access to this resource and all possible future improvements on it. Accordingly, Defense Maps is a free and uncopyrighted resource, and law firms, law schools, private companies, and all others are welcome to copy and build on any and all parts of it.
Who We Are
The Defense Maps Project is a creation of the family charity of Charlie and Barb Asher, The Freedom 22 Foundation. Charlie and Barb have combined their respective backgrounds in criminal defense and social work to lead a number of initiatives in the law’s better service of the public, including DefenseMap.com, UpToParents.org, and AssessFamilyLaw.org.
The Defense Map Project has received indispensable assistance from the generous feedback of hundreds of attorneys, mental health professionals, and former defendants and inmates.
The Spanish version of this resource is the result of the tireless contributions of Federico (Freddie) and Carol Thon.
The Project receives vital ongoing assistance from its Advisory Board of attorneys, lay persons, and Warden Russell Olmstead and Assistant Warden Rachel Zawistowski of the Saint Joseph County Jail in South Bend, Indiana. Special thanks are due to Sheriff William Redman of Saint Joseph County for the progressive vision and collaboration demonstrating that Defense Maps can be safely deployed in all jails and prisons.
By Charlie Asher
“ Every client I have had experienced this pivotal moment,
where an institution that was meant to protect and care for him,
broke him in a way that he could not come back from.
What did we think was going to happen when
this kind of violation occurs to a child?”
Ex. Dir., Advancing Real Change
The Defense Map Project is dedicated to Cindy White (born Sarah Isabel White), one of the most courageous and deserving client it’s ever been my privilege to represent.
Years after her 1976 murder convictions for a fire that unintentionally took six lives, Cindy White came to my attention via a call and visit from then-Indiana Parole Board member Richard “Dick” Doyle. “It’s maybe the most unfair sentence you could ever imagine,” was Dick’s opening summary.
I had to conclude Dick was right. Without some legal miracle (it’s never come), Cindy would live out her life in prison for an act of desperation where the State never proved, nor even alleged, she’d intended to hurt anyone. And her attorney never uncovered that Cindy’s sole motivation was to cause the smoke damage she thought would lead to her escape from over 10 years of harrowing sexual victimization.
A fuller summary of the facts developed at trial and at the post-conviction proceedings is found in Cindy’s Clemency Submission for Cindy White.
But even a few of the devastating facts are enough to capture some of Cindy’s helplessness when as a chronically abused teen in December 1975 Cindy set a fire for the sole purpose of escape from predatory sexual abuse.
No one even remotely sensitive to the plight of such a profoundly damaged and resource-deprived teen would have the temerity to deny one thing: Cindy did the best she could. She made a decision that made sense in the world that was forced upon her—and with no intent to harm anyone. Never imagining people would be killed or injured, Cindy set a fire she thought would make enough smoke to render this home (the site of her ongoing victimization) uninhabitable.
Neither before nor after the tragic fire has Cindy ever acted aggressively or dangerously toward anyone. Yet because of a pre-1979 quirk in Indiana sentencing law disallowing parole for anyone with more than one life sentence, Cindy can never be paroled. (Had this fire been set a few years later, Cindy would likely have been released in less than 20 years.)
For all the failures from adults in her life, Cindy suffered one more deficit. There was no tool like a Defense Map that could have allowed her to privately and patiently reveal the truth behind the bizarre appearance in the family’s photo album and personal wallet. Behind the earlier conversion reaction rendering her actually paralyzed. Behind the year of psychiatric hospitalization.
Behind it all.
For all the ways adults have failed Cindy (adults in her family, in her medical care, and in the legal system), she herself has led a wonderfully praiseworthy life. She’s found meaning in helping fellow inmates in distress, in guiding new inmates in living honorably and growing well, and in encouraging others to do their best.
And at my request, she’s given us permission to dedicate the Defense Map Project to her.
Because hurt, desperate, and shut down people—whatever they’ve been accused of—deserve the chance to have their real stories understood. And society deserves the protection of those revelations as well.
We can be reached through any of these links.