• The Southern Center for Human Rights represents individuals on death row at trial, on appeal, and in the post-conviction review process.
  • The legal system is so complex and contains so many procedural traps that a lay person accused of a crime can no more navigate it alone than a passenger can fly a plane in the absence of the pilot.
  • Through the use of tough on crime rhetoric, politicians have brought about longer prison terms, siphoning off resources that could be better spent on programs and services that provide real solutions to crime.
  • The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and within the United States, the top 7 states with the highest incarceration rates are all Southern states.
  • Contrary to what many people believe, there are debtors’ prisons throughout the United States where people are imprisoned because they are too poor to pay fines and fees.

The Southern Center for Human Rights


  • 23rd February 2015

    Poor adults and children facing prosecution in the superior and juvenile courts of the Cordele Judicial Circuit filed a civil rights lawsuit, N.P. v. Georgia in Fulton County Superior Court. N.P. seeks remedies for the frequent absence of public defenders in juvenile court, the assembly-line processing of adults in the superior courts, and the persistent refusal of the counties and the State to provide the funding necessary to bring constitutional legal representation to Cordele’s poor. This suit is the second in the last decade challenging the inadequate representation provided to poor people accused of crime in this south Georgia Circuit.

  • 17th February 2015

    ATLANTA- Today, the Southern Center for Human Rights, along with Atlanta based attorneys Daniel J. Grossman and Albert Wan filed a motion for civil contempt against the City of Atlanta in Anderson v. City of Atlanta, et al., for failure to comply with a prior Settlement and Consent Order on behalf of a woman whose constitutional rights were violated when she was arrested as she peaceably photographed police activity in 2009. The City and APD have failed to comply with obligations set forward by the Court.

  • 9th February 2015

    February 9, 2015 -- The Gate City Bar Association has selected the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) as the 2015 recipient of the R.E. Thomas Civil Rights Award.

  • 12th January 2015

    While we are all in the mindset of giving this season, the State Bar of Georgia asks that all Georgia lawyers take a minute and think about how you can incorporate pro bono into your everyday practice.

  • 5th January 2015

    The Southern Center for Human Rights is proud to announce that our Executive Director, Sara Totonchi has been recognized by Georgia Trend, The Magazine of Georgia Business, Politics and Economic Development, in its annual issue featuring Georgia’s Influential and Notable Persons. The selections honor Georgians from around the state who are making their marks on their professions, their communities and their state.



  • 24th November 2014

    Vera Cheeks, of Bainbridge, received a $135 for rolling through a stop sign. Going on probation gave her time to pay, but money was so tight that she was unable to make an immediate payment of $50. Her fiancé resorted to pawning Cheeks’ engagement ring and a Weed Eater so she could leave the building. “It just broke my heart,” Cheeks said.

    Vera Cheeks was hoping for mercy when she appeared in court for rolling through a stop sign.

    What she got was probation: Georgia’s high-cost solution for people who can’t immediately pay a traffic fine.

  • 18th September 2014

    Court papers filed in dispute allege sexual harassment by interim PD

    Officials in charge of filling the vacant circuit public defender position in Cordele are extending the application deadline, ending a dispute in which critics called the hiring process a sham.

    The decision to advertise the position more widely and give interested attorneys another 30 days to apply renders moot the Southern Center for Human Rights' request that a judge order a similar result.

  • 17th September 2014

    At its troubled Cordele office in South Georgia, the state public defenders system has replaced a lawyer accused of incompetence with one accused of sexual harassment, according to court filings.

  • 2nd September 2014

    The hiring of a circuit public defender in Cordele remains on hold as both sides to a lawsuit related to problems within that office have agreed to ask the court for more time to file briefs.

    Fulton County Superior Court Judge Todd Markle last week granted the Southern Center for Humans Rights' request for a temporary restraining order stopping the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council from filling the vacancy. The Southern Center represents plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in January alleging poor representation of indigent adults and teens charged with crimes.

  • 26th August 2014

    A Fulton County Superior Court judge is expected to issue a temporary restraining order that halts the state public defender system from appointing a circuit public defender in Cordele.

    "We received notice that the judge has enjoined [the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council] from making an appointment and [is] setting a hearing for next week," Stephen Bright, president and senior counsel for the Southern Center for Human Rights, said via email.

    The Southern Center on Monday filed a motion with Judge Todd Markle asking for an injunction and an evidentiary hearing.