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The Champion

April 2006 , Page 30 

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Reaching Through The Prison Walls: Social Work In An Appellate Defender Office

By Melissa Rothstein

Holistic public defense and forensic social work have been complementary developing fields for a number of years. Collaboration between social workers and lawyers in criminal defense offices is considered helpful for the legal practice and for the client.1 Social worker-lawyer collaborations are best-equipped to “respond to the myriad needs of those who are poor or marginalized by their social, medical or psychological circumstances.”2 The criminally accused commonly have a host of concerns that, if not directly related to arrest, are nonetheless exacerbated by it. Issues such as substance abuse, unstable housing, limited economic opportunities, and medical and mental illnesses are common concerns that may contribute to criminal behavior and limit the options available in plea negotiations. These issues may also persist after sentencing and complicate incarceration and/or release.

At the trial level, social workers collaborate with public defenders both to assist with the legal case an

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