Social Work and Public Defender Essay

Submitted By lsmith2020
Words: 2789
Pages: 12

The San Bernardino County Public Defender’s Office A historical and comprehensive perspective Larry William Smith 11/13/2013 California State University San Bernardino MSW Program

Background Information
The county of San Bernardino has a number of important departments that provide a plethora of services for a population of over two million residents. (http://www.uscensus.gov/) One of those departments is the San Bernardino County Public Defender’s Office. The Public Defender’s Office first came into existence in 1960 when the board of supervisors directed them to provide “legal counsel and defense services for persons accused of felonies at the Superior Court level who could not afford to employ private attorneys.” (http://www.sbcounty.gov/) Over the next fifty years, the office became more modern with technology, updated legal policies, and expanded services for both juveniles and adults. The office holds an annual budget of $35 Million dollars with a staffing level of 243 which includes master level social workers. (http://www.sbcounty.gov/) The Public Defender’s office is placed alongside the County District Attorney insuring public safety is upheld and indigent clientele receive adequate legal representation. As the county website states, “The San Bernardino County Public Defender represents adults or juveniles charged with misdemeanour or felony crimes, persons facing involuntary civil commitment for mental disorders or commitment under the Sexually Violent Predator statute.” (http://www.sbcounty.gov/) The Public Defender’s Office is made up of eight sections, The Main Unit, The Juvenile Division, Training, Civil Commitment, Homicide Defense Unit, Bureau of Investigation, Law Clerk Program, and the Video Court Arraignment Program. The Main Unit handles the majority of cases for the department and is comprised of the Human Services/Juvenile, Central and West Valley Detentions. (http://www.sbcounty.gov/) The Juvenile Unit is responsible for the development of cutting edge rehabilitative program within the juvenile justice system with regards to drug and mental health treatment courts countywide. The Training Unit which was launched in 2006 has the unprecedented task of providing cutting edge training in law, job performance, and assist staff members in sharpening their professional skills. The Civil Commitment Unit handles cases where their clients are potentially disordered offenders (MDO’s), developmentally disabled (DD), and sexually violent predators (SVP’s). The Homicidal Defense Unit handles the most violent offender’s where death is involved for defendants with a potential sentence of either life in prison without the possibility of parole, or death. The Bureau of Investigation Unit provides some of the most critical components of the Public Defender’s Office. Their primary task is to conduct investigations, collect, and evaluate evidence, testify in court, serve subpoenas, and much more. The Law Clerk Program has the privilege of working with some of the brightest and most ambitious students from law schools nationwide. The program provides an internship that usually takes place in the summer months with the idea of teaching advocacy for the client’s represented. And finally, the Video Court Arraignment Program launched in 2007. The focus of the program is for defendants to have access to legal counsel days in advance of a hearing through video chat.
The mandate or mission statement for the agency is “Public Defender promotes justice through effective litigation that protects constitutional rights.” (http://www.sbcounty.gov/) The basis of the mission statement is to convey a message to the general public that all defendants have access to a qualified attorney, treated with dignity because of their constitutional rights, and can expect staff members to…