Sentencing Advocate II
The Office of the Public Defender for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church seeks a passionate, dedicated individual to support our team of attorneys in advocating zealously and compassionately on the behalf of indigent defendants. The Sentencing Advocate II position reports to the Chief Public Defender for the Arlington Office and is employed at will.
The Sentencing Advocate works with attorneys to promote rehabilitative, restorative and client-centered outcomes in criminal cases, including alternatives to pretrial detention and incarceration, and works as a liaison with social services and treatment providers, zealously advocating for public defender clients and ensuring they receive the services and support they need during all phases of of a criminal case. The Sentencing Advocate also builds and maintains relationships with community groups, faith-based groups, businesses, and individuals in order to identify rehabilitative services and resources, and strengthen those that already exist. The Sentencing Advocate also coordinates mitigation investigations, in order that the Commonwealth and Courts may see our clients as more than just defendants. We are completely dedicated to protecting the rights and dignity of our clients through zealous, compassionate, and high-quality legal advocacy, and hope to find a Sentencing Advocate with the same values and dedication to join our team.
B. PRIMARY JOB DUTIES
- Interviews clients to investigate social history, including family, education, employment, mental health and substance abuse.
- Collects and analyzes relevant records, including medical, psychiatric, school, employment and probation records.
- Locates and interviews mitigation witnesses, including relatives, friends, employers, teachers, detention center/jail/prison staff, probation personnel, treatment providers, and others in order to determine client’s background and identify grounds for leniency. Obtains letters of support from mitigation witnesses and/or aranges for testimony at court hearings.
- Assists counsel in evaluating clients’ needs for psychological testing and/or treatment, including where there are questions concerning a client’s competency, sanity or danger to himself or others. Together with counsel, makes referrals to clinicians or other outside experts. Tracks cases where clients are incompetent to stand trial.
- Identifies and makes appropriate referrals to treatment or other services (e.g. mental health treatment, substances abuse services, medical care, housing, job training, and employment), identifies eligibility and funding sources for such referrals, and coordinates the delivery of services.
- Serves as an ally and advocate for clients, helping build a relationship of trust with the attorney/support staff, encouraging insight into past behavior and experiences, promoting openness to sentencing alternatives, preparing clients for services, and supporting clients in order to ensure compliance with court obligations.
- Regularly meets with public defenders to develop diversion and mitigation strategies. The advocate communicates regularly with attorneys to apprise them of all developments in client’s diversion or sentencing plan.
- Assists in the preparation of sentencing memoranda for submission to the court. Where appropriate, provides in-court testimony in support of bond applications or sentencing.
- Serves as a liaison between office and government social services, and maintains effective working relationships with them and other entities/service providers. Meets regularly with Community Services board regarding individual clients as well as county services more generally.
- Advocates for diversion from the criminal justice system for applicable clients; assists with Crisis Intervention Team [CIT] training and problem-solving if applicable.
- Educates and updates attorneys about sentencing resources, eligibility and admission procedures.
- Researches and is knowledgeable about applicable Department of Corrections (DOC) placement policies and procedures. Develops relationships with case managers, physicians and attorneys within the institutions.
- Researches sentencing practices and trends in order to advocate for procedural and substantive fairness in Arlington courts.
- Researches developments in sentencing advocacy practices and theories and updates attorneys on relevant changes.
- Maintains up-to-date, comprehensive and well-organized information on programs, agencies, mitigation and mental health research and literature, including resumes and CV’s of experts.
- Performs other related duties as assigned
The qualified candidate must have a valid driver’s license and the ability to travel locally and out-of-state as needed, including overnight travel, for case investigation and training. A postgraduate degree in social work, psychology, mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling or related fields is required.
The individual must have:
- An understanding of the methods and skills required for accomplishing the tasks outlined in the Primary Job Duties section above;
- Knowledge of the criminal justice system and an appreciation of the unique role of a defense advocate within the system;
- Experience researching and gathering data to reach a supportable conclusion
- Interviewing experience and knowledge of applicable interviewing techniques;
- An understanding of office confidentiality issues, such as attorney/client privilege;
- The ability to read, analyze and interpret common professional journals and legal documents;
- The ability to exercise good judgment in a mature and diplomatic manner;
- The ability to communicate effectively orally and in writing;
- The ability to work both independently and collaboratively in a team-driven environment;
- The ability to recognize and analyze problems and recommend practical solutions; and
- Skill and ability in managing multiple projects at once.
- Knowledge of local social service delivery systems, local and national resources and public entitlement requirements;
- Experience as a social worker, mental health clinician, probation officer or the like performing duties similar to those that the position requires;
- Prior experience working with clients with mental health issues;
- Prior sentencing/mitigation experience;
- Fluency in Spanish