Job Opportunities

Mitigation Specialist

Vacancy Announcement:
PDS-2020-21
Pay Series:
PDS-0101-12/13
Opening Date:
May 22, 2020
Closing Date:
Jun 21, 2020
Number of Vacancies:
1
Position Type:
Full-time, permanent
Location:

Public Defender Service
Special Litigation Division
633 Indiana Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20004

Who May Appy:

US Citizens or persons authorized to work in the United States

Compensation:

Salary Range: $86,335 - $133,465

Promotion Potential: PDS-13
If hired at PDS Grade 12, a candidate may be promoted without further competition

Organization Description:

PDS Overview: The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS) is a federally funded, independent organization governed by an eleven-member Board of Trustees. PDS provides legal representation to individuals facing a loss of freedom in the local criminal, delinquency, and mental health systems in the District of Columbia. PDS is funded by federal appropriations, and all employees are entitled to participate in federal health and life insurance plans, federal retirement plans, Workers Compensation, and the Thrift Savings Plan. Transferring employees will receive recognition of creditable federal service for leave accrual and retirement purposes.

Employment at the Public Defender Service (PDS) is neither federal nor District of Columbia government employment, and all employees are at-will.

Division Description: The Special Litigation Division (SLD) handles a wide variety of litigation that seeks to vindicate the constitutional and statutory rights of PDS clients and to challenge pervasive unfair criminal justice practices, including the prosecution of juveniles as adults, eyewitness identification issues, forensic issues, and issues pertaining to the suppression of exculpatory information by the government.  Currently the Division is focused on a number of issues, including post-conviction Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act cases. 

The Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act (IRAA) is a D.C. law enacted in April of 2017, which entitles certain individuals to new sentencing hearings.  Individuals who were 16 and 17 years old at the time of the offense, who were charged and convicted as adults, and who have served at least 15 years in prison, are eligible. Because these cases involve lengthy sentences, those represented are serving time primarily for homicide, armed robbery, and rape convictions.  At the resentencing hearing, IRAA requires the judge to consider certain factors, including the client’s life and circumstances at the time of the offense, any history of abuse or trauma, and any rehabilitation that has occurred since the sentencing.

Position Description:

This position is located in the Special Litigation Division. The purpose of the position is to obtain mitigation information and prepare comprehensive written mitigation reports.  The incumbent conducts personal history background, evaluates social and legal factors, studies institutional records, interviews client and collateral persons, recommends interventions designed to help individual clients find satisfactory ways of coping with present and past personal trauma and social challenges that led to incarceration, and devises treatment/service alternatives to confinement that address continued rehabilitation needs upon community re-entry. 

Essential Duties:

The work is focused on Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act (IRAA) cases, including gathering and presenting evidence regarding the specific IRAA factors.  Some of the Major Duties are:

  1. Write detailed and comprehensive mitigation reports for IRAA cases.  The mitigation reports will be filed in court as an attachment to each client’s IRAA motion.  Reports will focus on the specific IRAA factors that were gathered, identified, and analyzed by the incumbent, including: the client’s life history, including any abuse, trauma, or involvement in the child welfare system; the client’s community circumstances leading up to and at the time of the offense; the defendant’s health and mental health, both at the time of the offense and since the conviction, including review of all mental health reports and medical reports; the circumstances of the offense, including the extent of the client’s involvement and the involvement of adults; the defendant’s age and how the client’s age affected his participation in the crime; the victim’s statement or the statements of family of a deceased victim; court involvement; the client’s adjustment in prison, including compliance with the rules of the prison; the client’s participation in educational, vocational, or other programs in prison or reasons for lack of participation; the client’s demonstrated maturity, rehabilitation, and fitness to reenter society.  Reports may have to be supplemented with additional documentation, video presentations, or testimony.  

     

  2. Conduct an ongoing, exhaustive and independent investigation of every aspect of the client’s character, life history, record, circumstances of the offense, rehabilitation, conduct in prison, and other factors, which may provide a basis for a reduced sentence. Work with the attorneys and investigators assigned to IRAA cases and work independently to develop a mitigation investigation plan and conduct the mitigation investigation. As part of the defense team, assist in developing mitigation strategies and themes.  

     

  3. Work with the assigned attorneys and investigators, as a key participant in the mitigation investigation, to gather documents for the mitigation report. Review and analyze records that relate to prior court involvement through criminal, juvenile, or neglect cases; social and family background, including genealogies; neighborhood and school; medical and mental health issues and treatment; adjustment and programming in the prison system; and other reports on relevant subjects such as cultural, socioeconomic, environmental, racial, and religious issues in the client’s life.

     

  4. Conduct multiple, comprehensive and detailed in-person interviews, in a culturally competent manner, with: clients; clients’ family and friends, and other collateral witnesses connected to the client; witnesses to the underlying crimes; medical and mental health experts and treatment providers; and prison officials and volunteers working with client.  Interviews include gathering clients’ socio-biographical (bio-psychosocial) information, the clients’ personal and multi-generational familial history, and information regarding the offense.  Interviews with clients and some witnesses will be conducted at prisons and jails; other interviews may be conducted at homes or places of employment.  Frequently, the mitigation specialist will be required to travel out of the area to conduct interviews and other aspects of the investigation.  

     

  5. Communicate with prison and jail officials regarding rehabilitation, education, treatment, and any disciplinary issues.  Ensure that clients are receiving appropriate rehabilitation, education, and treatment services.  Identify and address conditions of confinement issues.

     

  6. Advise attorneys regarding appropriate mental health, cognitive, and mitigation experts. Consult with experts regarding mitigation information, rehabilitation information, and treatment information.  Experts who may be consulted include psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists, social workers, and prison experts. 

     

  7. Thorough consideration and analysis of potential mental health diagnoses and cognitive issues.  Consideration of the impacts and potential treatment of trauma, abuse, and neglect.  Consideration of the neurological and psychological attributes of teenagers, including its impact on behavior, decision-making, susceptibility to outside influence, and impulse control.  Thorough exploration and development of all issues related to mental health, cognition, and psychological attributes, and potential treatments when appropriate.     

     

  8. Conduct reentry planning, including identifying and making referrals for mental health and medical services, employment, substance abuse treatment, education, and other services.  Maintain familiarity with reentry service providers.  Evaluate and recommend treatment options.  Consult and work with social workers from PDS’ Office of Rehabilitation and Development (ORD) to develop and commit to writing a detailed and comprehensive reentry plan for each IRAA client.

     

  9. Assist with discrete projects in SLD as assigned.

     

  10. Other duties as assigned.
Required Qualifications:

Qualification Requirements: A Juris Doctor or a Master’s Degree or higher in Social Work, Clinical Psychology, Counseling, or related degree, and at least one year of experience as a Mitigation Specialist or related experience.

OR

A Bachelor’s Degree or higher in Criminal Justice, Law, Criminology, Psychology, Sociology, English, Journalism, Anthropology or other related fields, and at least three years of specialized experience as a Mitigation Specialist or related experience.

Other Requirements: (1) Incumbent must have insured, reliable and available transportation; (2) incumbent must have no convictions as defined in D.C. Code Sec. 14.305(b)(1) (Impeachment by evidence of conviction of crime); (3) applicant must be a US Citizen or authorized to work in the United States.

All candidates are subject to a criminal background check.

Qualifications Required for the PDS Grade 12  
A Juris Doctor or a Master’s Degree or higher in Social Work, Clinical Psychology, Counseling, or related degree, and at least one year of experience as a Mitigation Specialist or related experience. 

OR

A Bachelor’s Degree or higher in Criminal Justice, Law, Criminology, Psychology, Sociology, English, Journalism, Anthropology or other related fields, and at least three years of specialized experience as a Mitigation Specialist or related experience.

Qualifications Required for the PDS Grade 13  
A Juris Doctor or a Master’s Degree or higher in Social Work, Clinical Psychology, Counseling, or related degree, and at least two years of experience as a Mitigation Specialist or related experience. 

OR

A Bachelor’s Degree or higher in Criminal Justice, Law, Criminology, Psychology, Sociology, English, Journalism, Anthropology or other related fields, and at least four years of specialized experience as a Mitigation Specialist or related experience.

Notes on Educational Requirements
Education must be from an accrediting institution recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.  Applicants can verify accreditation at the following website: http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/search.aspx.  All education claimed by applicants will be verified by PDS.

Special Instructions For Foreign Education: Applicants who are using education completed in foreign colleges or universities to meet the qualification requirements, must show that the education credentials have been evaluated by a private organization that specializes in interpretation of foreign education programs and such education has been deemed equivalent to that gained in an accredited U.S. education program; or full credit has been given for the courses at a U.S. accredited college or university.  For further information, visit: http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ous/international/usnei/us/edlite-visitus-forrecog.html

Preferred Qualifications:

Preferred Education:  Juris Doctorate (J.D.)

Highly Desirable Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs): In addition to a traditional resume, candidates should submit a separate narrative statement addressing the following quality ranking factors. These factors will be used to distinguish the best-qualified applicants from a group of persons basically qualified for the position. Failure to submit your narrative response for this job will negatively affect your eligibility and/or rating for this position.

  1. Experience working with arrested adults and understanding of the plight of persons from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  2. Ability to interpret complex rulings and opinions and determine applicability to the client.
  3. Demonstrated experience working independently.
  4. Direct defense experience working with adult clients on rehabilitation and dispositional issues.
  5. Knowledge of psychological, psychiatric, addiction, medical, and all concepts related to rehabilitation and alternatives to confinement.
  6. Demonstrated excellent writing and oral persuasion skills and ability to communicate effectively to broad spectrum of people.
  7. Demonstrated computer skills.
  8. Fluency in Spanish (reading and writing).
  9. Familiarity with treatment and rehabilitation resources.
  10. Knowledge of the court system. Detailed knowledge of the prison system in general, and specific aspects of prison life such as solitary confinement, prison conditions, etc.
Application Evaluation:

Rating: Your application package will be rated and ranked among others, based on your experience, education, the strength of your writing sample, training, performance appraisals, and awards relevant to the duties of this position. Your rating can be lowered if your application package is not supported by the required documents.

Referral: If you are among the top qualified candidates, your application package will be referred to a selecting official for consideration at which time you may be required to participate in a selection interview.

Benefits:

PDS is funded by federal appropriations, and employees are entitled to participate in federal benefits plans, federal retirement systems, and the workers compensation program. Transferring federal employees will receive recognition of creditable federal service for leave accrual and retirement (if applicable) purposes. Benefits include:

Federal Employees Retirement Systems (retirement annuity)
Thrift Savings Plan (similar to a 401K program)
Federal Employees Health Benefits (health insurance)
Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (life insurance)
Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program
Flexible Spending Accounts (for health care and dependent care)
Long Term Care
Parking Space (for Investigative Specialists)
Employee Assistance Program
Federal Occupational Health (access to health clinic and services)

How To Apply:

Interview Structure:  Those who are selected for interviews will be required to interview via Web-X, Skype, or some other communications platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to Apply:  Applicants must submit the following:

  • a traditional resume (with day telephone and email contacts);
  • graduate school transcripts (if applicable);
  • a narrative statement addressing above KSAs;
  • a writing sample (preferably a mitigation report or sentencing memorandum);
  • a list of three references; and
  • your most recent performance appraisal (if applicable).

Please submit your application package via email as MS Word or PDF document and attachments to the following email address: PDSHRMailbox@pdsdc.org. The vacancy number and title of the vacancy (Mitigation Specialist, PDS #2020-21) MUST APPEAR on the subject line of the email. Application packages submitted with missing information can affect referring application to selecting official.

If you have any questions about the position, application, or hiring process, please contact Steve Yu, Lead HR Specialist at (202) 824-2339 or syu@pdsdc.org.

PDS is an Equal Opportunity Employer and E-Verify Participating Agency.