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Parham puts heart, soul into helping young clients

By: Jimmy Nesbitt//September 16, 2020//

Parham puts heart, soul into helping young clients

By: Jimmy Nesbitt//September 16, 2020//

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Gillion Parham - Wisconsin State Public Defender
Gillion Parham – Wisconsin State Public Defender

Gillion Parham has earned a reputation for going above and beyond for her clients.

Parham, a local attorney manager at the State Public Defender’s Office, represents young people in cases involving delinquency and protection services, parents in cases involving the termination of parental rights and adults and children in mental-health proceedings.

Amanda Merkwae, legislative advisor at the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, said that Parham puts her heart and soul into representing young people accused of crimes.

“She recognizes the life-altering impact that ‘having a record’ and being involved in the criminal legal system can have on a young person psychologically, economically and socially,” Merkwae said.

Parham is the only Black woman in the public defender’s delinquency division and the only Black female attorney who represents children — or prosecutes them — at Milwaukee’s Children’s Court.

“When she tells her clients’ stories on and off the record, she powerfully highlights the racial disparities that exist in all stages of delinquency court proceedings and the ways that ‘the system’ can cause further harm to already … marginalized young people and their families,” Merkwae said.

Parham said she enjoys the advocacy part of job . One of the hardest parts of her work is finding some time for rest.

“Sleep deprivation is a real hazard in this line of work,” she said. “These are not just cases — there are real people with families and livelihoods at stake. With such an awesome responsibility, a public defender is challenged to find time for self-care.”

When she’s not working and actually has some leisure time, Parham said, she enjoys biking, traveling and cooking.

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