The California State Association of Counties (CSAC) announced on Nov. 4 that the Sacramento County Public Defender’s (SCPD) Office
was a 2020 Health and Human Services Merit Award recipient for their Pretrial Support Project (PTSP).
The PTSP program is a solution created by the Public Defender’s Office to address a series of existing issues, along with new issues, like COVID-19 related court closures and the California Supreme courts affirmation of the 2018 Humphrey case - which holds that courts must look to the least restrictive way to monitor an individual between arraignment and trial.
“We believe that the answer to these challenges lies in developing a client-centered program driven towards a holistic defense approach,” said Tiffanie Synnott, Supervising Public Defender. “We are proud of this program and the work that our office is doing, and are thrilled to have this work acknowledged by CSAC.”
The PTSP program is designed to contact individuals in custody within 24 hours of booking and complete a needs assessment. This eight-page comprehensive needs assessment gathers information regarding an individual’s community ties, employment, military history, finances, education, transportation, physical health, mental health, substance abuse and housing.
Once the assessment is completed, a recommendation is made to the attorney for:
- Social worker follow up,
- Case navigation towards collaborative/diversion courts, and/or
- Advocacy for release from custody based on needs, COVID concerns and the Humphrey decision.
If social worker follow up is needed, the social worker will coordinate jail discharge, provide linkage to services, conduct further clinical assessments, coordinate services and provide case management. The PTSP program was also designed to answer “how to” questions that individuals or family members may have; such as, how to get property back, how to appear by zoom for court, and how to find out new court date due to court COVID closures.
“This program is innovative in both approach and structure,” said Synnott. “The approach is innovative because through this client-centered holistic program, we can help identify underlying needs of an individual that may have led to their engagement of criminal conduct. The structure of PTSP is innovative because law students and social work students earn credits for externships to conduct the needs assessment of individuals in custody.”
Licensed Clinical Social Workers have been placed in the SCPD office to support follow-up assessments, linkage to services and case management.
While this program is still fairly new, it has been reported as a success by legal partners. Approximately 125 needs assessments are conducted each week. Of those assessments, nearly 50 percent require social worker follow up.