Defender Services Programs

The Defender Services Program is a foundation-supported division within the Orleans Public Defenders. Its principal funder is Baptist Community Ministries. The Louisiana Public Defender Board supports this program by providing technical support, media advocacy and training programs, both in Orleans and throughout the state.

Defender Services Program

The Defender Services Program (DSP) is the social services and outreach division of the Orleans Public Defenders. Its purpose is to offer holistic, community-oriented representation and a range of supplemental legal/social services to clients of the Public Defenders. Division staff currently includes a licensed social worker, an outreach coordinator, a volunteer coordinator/interpreter, two MasterĖs of Social Work interns, and two case managers. The vast majority of the Defender Services Program is funded through foundation awards or other charitable giving.

The social work component of the DSP is used when a more comprehensive understanding of the clientĖs psychosocial history and fundamental needs is necessary in order to proceed with the case. The OPD Social Worker can do the following (but is not limited to): Client Case Histories (an outline of the clients' lives that contextualizes their criminal allegation in terms of potential disabilities, diagnoses, and/or addictions); Biopsychosocial Assessments (a more detailed analytical view of the clientsĖ biological, psychological, and social influences); Client Crisis-Intervention; Brief-Counseling Sessions; Court Testimony, and; Pre-pleading Investigations.

The outreach component builds positive, productive relationships between relevant community groups, social service providers, advocacy organizations, individuals and the Orleans Public Defenders office. The Outreach Coordinator identifies, expands, and maintains a network of viable medical, clinical, substance abuse treatment, educational, vocational, employment and housing-related services available in the New Orleans area to which OPD clients can be referred. The Outreach Coordinator coordinates with the social worker, attorney and client by handling most individual referrals to social service programs. The Outreach Coordinator also initiates and conducts OPD community outreach events. The specific activities of the Outreach Coordinator include: Develop and maintain a community resource database; Complete referrals from attorneys to social services; Conduct regular site visits of major service providers to ensure a high level of information exchange between these organizations and the OPD; Provide organizational assistance to community groups to help augment services already provided; Maintenance of program brochures and literature; Annual publication of community resource list; Client advocacy with other agencies and institutions, and; Organize ÏKnow Your RightsÓ workshops for the Orleans Parish community.

In its first year of existence, the DSP has fulfilled the requested service for 86% of all cases. Mitigation Reports have reduced sentences in 100% of cases for which reports were submitted. The DSP secured a release for the client in 85% of cases and has a recidivism rate of 9%.

Contact information:

Defender Services Program/A Division of the Orleans Public Defenders
Supervisors: Sophia Sarantakos, MSW, GSW
2601 Tulane Avenue, Suite 700
New Orleans, LA 70119
(504) 821-8101 (office)
(504) 821-5285 (fax)

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