I am Eliza Solowiej, the Executive Director of First Defense Legal Aid (First Defense), providing free defense attorneys to people arrested or detained in Chicago police stations 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week, 365 days-a-year when alerted at 1(800)LAW-REP-4, (1-800-529-7374). In addition to the Hotline, First Defense offers Know Your Rights education and leadership development in schools, homes, community centers and on the streets; plus we advocate and organize for fairness, equity, and accountability in the criminal and juvenile systems and beyond.
This professional role overlaps with my life mission. I am a devoted parent, foster parent and mentor in the Marquette Park neighborhood, where we have the highest rates of youth arrests. I am personally dedicated to stopping the cradle-to-prison pipeline and replacing it with racial justice and universal human rights. To this end, I’ve worked for more than 18 years in youth, community, and organizational leadership development for those most directly affected by injustices to move from isolation to governance on related policy and budget decisions.
At First Defense, I have a great team of staff, volunteers, and partners, some of whom you’ll meet as their words and work are featured on “You’ve Got That Right!” too. First Defenders have a lot to say about peoples’ rights in police custody, and the many issues that intersect in Chicago police investigations. Enjoy, engage, and contact me anytime at Eliza@First-Defense.org. My “You’ve Got That Right!” weblog is a one-year experiment, supported by The Chicago Community Trust fellowship.