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Juvenile Life Without Parole (JLWOP)--Mitigation Specialist open with The Defender Association of Ph

Job Summary

The Defender Association’s Juvenile Life Without Parole Project (JLWOP) has been funded by the City of Philadelphia as part of a three (3) year special project to resolve the Philadelphia Juvenile Life Without Parole cases. The JLWOP will represent 225 of approximately 300 juvenile lifers currently serving unconstitutional sentences. We are in the final year of the program. This position is for one year period.

The JLWOP Mitigation Specialist will prepare for and assist attorneys as they litigate Resentencing Hearings in homicide cases, many of which occurred decades ago. The Mitigator will identify and interview significant family members; prepare extensive, reliable and multi-generational psycho-social summaries; and develop themes for mitigation based on a client’s psycho-social development. The Mitigator will also work to mitigate the facts of the crime for which the clients were convicted. In addition to mitigating the client’s past and current life circumstances, this position is unique in that the Mitigator will also work with our clients in the re-entry phase. He/she will coordinate re-entry efforts with various agencies/agents with primary responsibility for re-entry. A successful candidate will be able to conduct interviews in prisons, in the office and the community.

Major Areas of Responsibility


  • Meet with and interview clients in state prisons across Pennsylvania to gather information pertaining to the facts of the crime, life histories and themes for mitigation. It is important to note that Juvenile Lifer Mitigation Specialist must be able to develop trustful relationships with clients and their families in an effort to elicit sensitive and oftentimes embarrassing information.

  • Conduct exhaustive investigation into client’s backgrounds including locating and interviewing witnesses such as family members, friends and service providers (medical, psychological, educational, spiritual, etc.) of clients to uncover and gather mitigation evidence

  • Ability to identify and interview significant social informants, preparing reliable client social histories and developing theories to mitigation based on clients psycho-social development

  • Gather and review records, reports and other documentary materials

  • Proficiency in relationship building and working as part of an interdisciplinary team of lawyers and experts

  • Prepare comprehensive and persuasive psycho-social summaries and sentencing reports

  • Identify and refer clients for expert evaluations, when necessary

  • Work with attorneys to determine, evaluate and select expert witnesses and consultants

  • Work with expert witnesses, provide experts with documentation required and or accompany experts to forensic evaluations

  • Assist attorney’s as they prepare theories and themes for mitigation of the crime as well as the defendants life

  • Testify in court as needed

Re-Entry Planning

  • Re-entry planning including assessing clients’ medical and physical needs and evaluating clients for competency, alcohol/drug dependence, etc. and coordinating with outside agencies/agents to assist clients in obtaining appropriate therapeutic and support services upon release


  • This position may require approximately 50 % travel including travel to prisons where clients are housed, as well as overnight stays, often for several nights in a row.


Education: Master’s Degree, required.


  • Three years social work/mitigation related experience

  • Ability to work independently while maintaining regular and effective communication with attorneys

  • Ability to analyze and evaluate facts, evidence and related information and engage in creative thinking and problem solving

  • Excellent interpersonal, oral and written communication skills and the ability to engage with and establish rapport with people from a variety of backgrounds

  • Knowledge of the Adult criminal justice system

  • Knowledge of adult social service procedures and programs

  • Experience with the Preparation of Penalty Phase hearings in a homicide case, preferred

  • Experience preparing full psycho-social summaries and sentencing reports

  • Working knowledge of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and the ability to interact with professionals using DSM terminology

Nothing in this job description restricts management’s right to assign or reassign duties and responsibilities to this job at any time. This description reflects management’s assignment of essential functions. It does not proscribe or restrict the tasks that may be assigned. This job description is subject to change at any time.


Fully paid health insurance--Keystone HMO (POS); 11 paid holidays; Vacation, Sick and Personal time, 403(b); Life Insurance policy; Long term and short term disability options




None specified


Master's degree


Interested applicants should submit a letter of interest and resume to the Human Resources Department via e-mail at

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