Advocating for Justice in the Carceral State: Innovative Social Work Methods

April 21, 2017 9:30 am - 5:00 pm


Columbia School of Social Work, 1255 Amsterdam Ave., New York 10027


This conference provides an overview of defense-based social work practice in community defender offices. It promotes the establishment of ongoing programs, forums, task forces and committees devoted to the expansion of defense-based social work practice. It also highlights the complexities and need for creative and strategic approaches in working as a social worker in a legal setting and the uniquely inherent ethical dilemmas these settings pose. It is also an opportunity to network for current defense-based or oriented practitioners in NYC metro area

The conference is for new and seasoned social workers in forensic and family court settings aiming to gain new ideas, tools, and knowledge about cases and court process. These skills will strengthen the outcomes of your cases and improve clients’ experience along the way.

The morning will focus on the path of a case, how to effectively advocate in court and on paper for your clients, keep them in the community, work on strategies with clients and family members, as well as pre arraignment and post-conviction services, as well as working with traditionally “difficult” clients.

The afternoon session will focus on programs to collaborate with on cases and how to best utilize them for your client’s specific needs.


Conference Schedule:

9:30 to 10 am Registration and Breakfast

Morning Session – The Path of a Case in Three Parts

10 to 11 am Pre-Trial/Pre-Sentence (Early Social Work Advocacy: From Arraignments to Disposition)

11 am to 12 pm Sentenced

12 to 1 pm Post-Sentence

1 to 2 pm Lunch

2 to 4 pm Creative Collaboration: Meeting Organizations to Support Your Client’s Future

4 to 5 pm Questions/Answers/Mingle and Meet

Please see below presenters’ section for learning objectives.


Caitlin Becker, The Bronx Defenders

Allison Berger, Legal Aid Society Criminal Appeals Bureau

Rebekah Coleman, Legal Aid Society Parole Revocation Unit

Jenny Crawford, Columbia University School of Social Work

Karen Dubin-McKnight, Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services (CASES)

Eric Grossman, Women’s Prison Association

Vivianne Guevara, Federal Defenders, Eastern District

Donna Hylton, From Life to Life

Larry Menzie, Queens Center for Change

Johanna Neufeld, New York County Defender Services

Dinah Ortiz, The Bronx Defenders

Natalie Oakley, SUNY Employment Opportunity Center

Ronald Schneider, Brooklyn Defender Services, Adolescent Representation Team

Julia Shaw, STEPS to End Family Violence

Rachelle Veasley, Federal Defenders Southern District

Jennifer Villa, Urban Dove Team Charter School

Brenda Zubay, Brooklyn Defender Services, Adolescent Representation Team

TBD – School of Cooperative Technical Education

TBD – Parole Prep Project

Learning Objectives

Session 1: Pretrial

Participants will learn to:

  • Apply strategies for maintaining engagement in the court process.
  • Conduct strength based assessments that inform the legal strategy.
  • Craft creative proposals for a youthful offender plea.
  • Employ strategies for maintaining adolescent client engagement during the length of plea.
  • Identify records or other documents that would bolster mitigation for a client.
  • Use strategies for advocating on behalf of clients with multi-system involvement (including family court cases).
  • Apply strategies for early social work advocacy/engaging difficult clients in the process.

Session 2: Sentenced

Participants will learn to:

  • Apply engagement skills that build working relationships with correctional staff to improve conditions for incarcerated clients.
  • Teach advocacy skills to clients so they can utilize the time they are incarcerated while coping with or addressing the conditions of their confinement.

Session 3: Post-Sentence

Participants will learn to:

  • Write and/or orally advocate for individuals that are on parole, on the sex offender registry, and/or on federal probation.
  • Use innovative clinical skills for clients under post-conviction obligations.

Session 4: Creative Collaboration: Meeting Organizations to Support Your Client’s Future

Participants will learn to:

  • Identify strategies to keep clients engaged in treatment/services.
  • Apply innovative treatment methods for clients who have criminal justice involvement.
  • Name several programs to collaborate with on cases.
  • Define how best to use specific programs to meet client’s specific needs.

Continuing Education Contact Hours Information

5.0 contact hours will be awarded for NYS, NJ and CT licensed social workers. Licensed Social Workers for other states, please refer to your state licensing agency and email In order to receive your continuing education certificate, you must attend the entire conference. Certificates will be emailed within 30 days of the conference. CSSW is an approved NYSED provider for continuing education contact hours and a CSWE accredited institution.

Special Accommodations and Grievance Policy

For information on special accommodations or our grievance policy, click here.

Cancellation policy: Fees will be refunded less a $5.00 processing fee, if written notification is received by the Office of Professional Excellence up to two weeks prior to the workshop date.