Levin PhD student and Graduate Research Assistant, Bryson Davis, met with Cait Kennedy (PhD student, MS ’19) and Joyce Huang (MUPDD ’16) to discuss unBail, a mobile app the two co-founded that helps defendants navigate the legal system by providing timely, relevant, and actionable updates about defendants' cases and how to prepare for what lies ahead. Here is what Bryson learned:
Most attorneys spend three years of full-time study to gain the expertise and problem-solving skills necessary for navigating the criminal justice system. In stark contrast, most defendants, many of whom are either un- or underrepresented by legal counsel, have little to no training at all. They are left to find their way through the maze of a legal system that is complex and even puzzling. From locating the right courtroom to interpreting the law and understanding their rights, defendants are often left to navigate their case on their own, often leading to unfair, detrimental outcomes that can stick with them for the rest of their lives. This is where the old adage, knowledge is power, comes in. Navigating the criminal legal system may be complex and onerous, but it can be managed with the right information, even without a law degree. A couple Levin grads, along with their colleagues, are seeking to democratize this information with a mobile app they have developed called unBail.
Cait and Joyce co-founded unBail alongside four of their peers in 2018. unBail democratizes information about the criminal legal system by providing useful legal information to defendants and their families – information that empowers them to advocate for themselves while giving them a better shot at a fair, equitable, and just outcome. Like a GPS app that provides you with the information you need to reach your desired destination, the aim of unBail is to break down the complex legal system into easily digestible parts, making it easy for defendants to be informed and navigate the criminal legal system. In addition to actively helping defendants, the mobile app will also learn and identify trends that can inform larger, systemic change. The ultimate goal: a more just legal system that serves all people, where the experiences of defendants matter.
Joyce is a 2016 graduate of the Master of Urban Planning, Design, and Development program and Cait is currently a student in the Levin College’s PhD in Urban Studies and Public Affairs program. Cait also completed the College’s Master of Science in Urban Studies program in 2019. In addition to their work with unBail, Cait and Joyce have been actively living out the Levin College’s core value of civic engagement. Cait’s research focuses on enhancing democracy by examining city voting trends in legacy cities. Joyce has served as the Vice President of Community Development at MidTown Cleveland and has recently been appointed as the Planning Director for the City of Cleveland.