The American Bar Association has passed a new resolution calling for criminal defense lawyers to use a holistic approach with their clients. The resolution follows the release of an ABA report on recidivism rates of convicted criminals.
In North Carolina, anyone who has a criminal record learns quickly that there are long-term consequences. Ex-offenders may have difficulties finding employment and stable housing. They may also have family issues such as divorce, custody and child support problems, all of which can contribute to recurring cycles of crime. Two out of three convicted criminals will be arrested for new crimes within three years.
These interrelated problems can be more adequately dealt with if criminal defense lawyers help their clients identify legal and non-legal issues that could lead them to commit additional crimes. And, the criminal recidivism rate could be reduced if lawyers were to provide post-incarceration re-entry services to clients, such as referrals to social service agencies and civil legal resources.
The resolution is non-binding, but the ABA strongly urges its lawyers to incorporate this new approach. The ABA contends that many defendants do not realize how much a criminal conviction will affect other areas of their lives. If lawyers address this with clients, then they may be more likely to follow through on adjunct services and not fall into a downward spiral of criminal activity to try and meet their needs.
This holistic approach is good in theory. However, the report noted that criminal defense attorneys are limited as to how much they can do for convicted criminals because they do not have the resources to provide the additional assistance. The ABA is encouraging the federal government and granting foundations to allocate resources to specific programs that address these interdependent issues. If additional resources are allocated to lawyers in North Carolina to integrate this “big picture” approach into their practices, they may strongly support this resolution, and the recidivism rate in our state could slip into its own downward spiral.
Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight, “ABA urges criminal defense lawyers to embrace holistic approach,” Dan Wiessner, Aug. 7, 2012