The National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) has selected the Office of the Appellate Defender (OAD) to serve as a host site for NLADA’s inaugural AmeriCorps VISTA program. This initiative is designed to train AmeriCorps VISTA members in best practices in Community Oriented Defense by placing them in public defense agencies to help establish systems for ongoing sustainability. OAD’s VISTA member will work to strengthen OAD’s partnerships with New York City’s community and criminal justice stakeholders.
“OAD is thrilled to be one of the first public defender offices in the country – and the only appellate defender – to participate in NLADA’s pilot AmeriCorps VISTA program,” said Christina Swarns, President and Attorney-in-Charge of OAD. “This is an important affirmation of OAD’s belief that effective indigent appellate defense is grounded in not only an in-depth understanding of the complexities of criminal law but also a meaningful understanding of the myriad ways in which the criminal justice system impacts our clients and their communities.”
OAD’s Community Partnerships VISTA member will be drawn from a pool of recent college graduates who have a demonstrated interest in social justice and a connection to the communities served by OAD. The VISTA member will work to ensure OAD’s practice reflects the ways in which criminal laws and policies impact its individual clients, their families and their communities. The VISTA member will also build OAD’s capacity to share critical and current information that will ease the trying process of navigating the criminal justice system. Thus, the VISTA member will improve OAD’s ability to provide truly holistic appellate defense representation, not only by identifying resources relevant to our clients’ most basic but as yet unmet needs during and after incarceration, but also by creating and cementing connections between OAD and impacted communities.
“Thanks to the vision of NLADA, OAD is fortunate to have the opportunity to host a VISTA member whose primary goal will be fortifying OAD’s community partnerships,” said Lisa Packard, OAD’s Managing Attorney. “This will reap benefits for our organization for years to come.”
More information about OAD’s VISTA position can be found here.