Organization creates partnership to build capacity in public defender offices

The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) has partnered with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to create an innovative new AmeriCorps program.

This program, Defending Communities in Service, places VISTA members in public defender offices to assist in the implementation of holistic defense solutions and increase the capacity of these offices to protect their client’s right to counsel.
NLADA’s strategic decision to connect with AmeriCorps represents the first national scale program that allows VISTA members to serve with public defender offices.

“In today’s dynamic climate, NLADA finds creative and innovative ways for communities to receive the legal assistance they need,” said Jo-Ann Wallace, president and CEO of NLADA. “This exciting new project with CNCS will not only reach more people, it will aid public defenders’ offices in their mission to implement the vision of holistic defense.”

Holistic defense is an all-inclusive system that integrates legal defense along with access to a range of social services to address the underlying issues that push clients into the justice system in the first place. Having a comprehensive understanding of people and their circumstances helps public defenders better assist their clients.

The VISTA program allows NLADA to place boots on the ground to support public defender offices. For twelve months, VISTAs will assist in gathering data on best practices, leveraging current community partnerships and looking for opportunities to create new collaborations. Two VISTA members, based in NLADA’s Washington, DC office, will help the program team in developing Defending Communities in Service from the ground up.

NLADA will host nineteen VISTA members serving in the following cities: Phoenix, AZ; Oakland, CA; Santa Barbara, CA; Washington, D.C.; Sinajana, GU; New Orleans, LA; Baltimore, MD; Pablo, MT; New York, NY; Tulsa, OK; Norristown, PA; Lubbock, TX; and Madison, WI.

“NLADA is confident that this new partnership with AmeriCorps will allow our community to continue to build on their work ensuring that legal representation is available to everyone regardless of circumstances,” said Wallace.
“We are proud to be able to so effectively serve these champions of justice.”
For more information on the Defending Communities in Service-VISTA Program, visit