In May, 2014 the Alameda County Public Defender's Office hired four social workers as part of its commitment to building a holistic defense practice. The program currently works with clients charged with felonies and seeks to:
- Make strong referrals to community-based social service agencies
- Ensure that clients' needs for treatment are adequately addressed
- Provide expertise to help judges and attorneys understand clients' circumstances and life stories
- Contribute to early release from jail by providing alternatives to incarceration
- Strengthen legal outcomes
Social workers in the Public Defender's office are essential in linking our clients to services throughout their criminal case and easing the transition from incarceration to living and working in the community. In their advocacy role, they highlight clients' life stories for the Court in order to identify appropriate alternatives to incarceration including addiction and mental health treatment programs.
Additionally, our social workers provide crisis intervention and support clients in finding housing, employment and continuing their education. They also coordinate book donations to Santa Rita Jail, help inmates enroll in classes while in custody, and have developed a program to give children's clothing to clients in need.
Studies show that the use of reentry social workers can result in a significant reduction of prison sentences for reentry clients and increases in alternative jail sentences, which can prevent incarceration altogether.
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