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Transforming Offenders into Productive Members of Society via “Team-Oriented Justice”Professor Lacey Martz never thought that case management would be such an integral part of her job as a public defender. In Kaplan University's public safety programs, Martz teaches courses related to juvenile justice and research methods in criminal justice. Martz is also a criminal defense attorney for the County of San Diego, a job she’s held for more than a decade, where she is responsible for defending individuals charged with crimes. Her caseload ranges from simple misdemeanors to homicides. Martz believes that the principles of case management are an integral part of her job and she stresses this in her criminal justice classes. “The notion of punishment in our society is changing. As our prisons continue to be overcrowded, we are moving away from warehousing individuals and beginning to focus on the reasons why an offender is in the system,” she says. “Case management helps ensure that an offender’s sentence meets the needs of the victim and the community, but also addresses the underlying issues that an offender is struggling with.”For example, Martz’s team is moving toward what they term “team-oriented justice.” For low-level offenders, specialized courts deal with mentally ill offenders, homeless offenders, and even veterans. These courts are run by teams of prosecutors, probation officers, and defense attorneys. They work together to link the client to existing services in the community such as counseling, job training, medical/mental health care, and community service. Clients must return to court frequently and their progress is closely monitored by the team. “Oftentimes, the crimes that we see are really symptoms of a larger issue,” Martz said. “We use case management skills to turn these interactions with the justice system into opportunities. It is a win-win for all involved. We work to ensure that restitution is made to the victim, the client receives needed services, and the community gains a more productive member.” Martz says that for many, this is the first time that they have had an advocate, a person standing up for them—and with them. For example, many of her clients never learned to read. So she sets them up with education and literacy programs, and their life is transformed.“Several times I have had former clients walk up to me in the street or in a store, thanking me for my help. I almost always have absolutely no idea who they are, until they tell me their name. Then I remember every single detail of their case. I look at them and the transformation I see is amazing! They are completely different, unrecognizable from before. They are productive members of the community living normal lives. It’s these people who are able to turn their lives around that inspire me every day.” Martz hopes to inspire her students as well. “The enthusiasm and interest that I see in my students reminds me how lucky I am to work in my field. I even have former students who work in my courthouse. They tell me how thankful they are that they learned the importance of case management and of their surprise with how much they can help their clients rather than just put them away.”
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