Barksdale Hortenstine, Jr., is the Director of the Mental Health Unit at Orleans Public Defenders (OPD), the New Orleans public defenders office. OPD's Mental Health Unit works to increase the quality of representation and available services for poor people. The Unit's attorneys represent clients with psychiatric diagnoses, to ensure they receive adequate and appropriate services and are treated fairly by the courts.
As a public defender, Hortenstine represents and advocates for hundreds of New Orleanians each year, seeking to humanize and bear witness to the daily injustices of the criminal legal system. His primary focus is on the intersection of the criminal legal system and understanding of mental health issues within the community. He currently focuses on pretrial issues of competency and defenses of not guilty by reason of insanity, as well as post-disposition advocacy for clients seeking less restrictive settings. He works with criminal justice system stakeholders, policymakers and mental health professionals to increase the level of representation and treatment for his clients and others within the court system and in the public sphere more generally. Hortenstine is driven by the central principle that relying on the criminal justice system to manage mental health is neither just nor healthy. He is a graduate of Emory University Law School. He received his undergraduate degree from Louisiana State University and lives in New Orleans.