Defender Services Program

The Defender Services Program (DSP) is the largest social service adjunct in the Criminal Practice. Operating out of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens offices, licensed master social workers and bachelors level social work assistants interview clients and collaterals; gather and analyze life history records; and ultimately present mitigation on misdemeanor and felony cases in the trial offices.

They put our clients’ contacts with the criminal justice system into context by telling their stories. Social workers prepare Pre-Pleading or Pre-Sentencing Memoranda, letters to Court, psychosocial reports or Affidavits in support of Clayton Motions.

DSP social workers also provide oral testimony in an effort to persuade the court that the person is more than the sum of his/her criminal acts. Based on the mitigation uncovered, and as we attempt to separate the person from the behavior, social workers in DSP advocate for lesser sentences or alternatives to incarceration, having set up either inpatient or outpatient treatment to satisfy the court’s conditions.

The stories our clients tell us are rife with poverty, mental illness, trauma, substance abuse, and homelessness. The Legal Aid Society’s social work staff members are tireless advocates who work passionately to make sure that our clients’ stories are heard.

Read about our clients' stories.