More than Getting Out of Jail–A Social Worker’s Thoughts on Criminal Defense
Written by Maria Campos, a Social Worker not affiliated with The Law Offices of Marnie Slavin.
Not intended as legal advice.
As a graduate student, I was offered two tracks in my social work program–clinical or administration. I chose the clinical route because I wanted to counsel people directly. However, I became a social worker for criminal defense lawyers. I imagined I would be doing all administrative work and none of the clinical. I was wrong. I actually do a hybrid of the two. My job definitely involves paperwork and lots of it. But it also involves counseling, court appearances, evaluations, assessments and a plethora of other things. I assist the attorneys at my office with whatever they need in regards to their clients’ well-being. Most of the time this means finding treatment. Treatment is the catch all word for any kind of rehabilitation services that our clients might need in order to mitigate their sentences. To be honest, some clients actually want the treatment but other just want to avoid jail. This also means I spend a great deal of time on the phone, writing letters, sending faxes and trying to get in communication with intake coordinators who could potentially accept my clients into their treatment facilities. In addition to intake coordinators, there are probation officers, court services, clerks at magistrate and district courts, officers and staff at the jail and countless other people who work behind the scenes that you have to coordinate with in order for everything to run smoothly. It’s a hectic job to be sure but no two days are even remotely the same so things are never boring. One day I might be doing counseling at the jail and the next day testifying in a juvenile bench trial. Another day I might be coordinating competency evaluations and meeting with clients at the courts. You never know.
One of the most important, if not THE most important thing I have learned at my job is our clients are not criminals. Well, legally speaking the state may consider them criminals, however, the overwhelming majority are decent people who started life with the odds stacked against them. More often than not, when talking to my clients, I hear real life stories of abuse and neglect stemming from childhood which led to substance abuse as adolescents and adults. Never have I been so aware of how lucky I have been in my own life to have two caring parents and a roof over my head. My job gives me the opportunity to work with people in such a way that is hard to describe. It is incredibly fulfilling in so many different ways and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a highly human experience.