This week the National Association for Public Defense  (NAPD) is hosting the largest-ever convening of non-attorney public defense professionals this week in Albuquerque – a move that highlights both New Mexico’s leading role in the public defense community and a national shift in the way public defense fulfills the constitutional right to counsel, serves defendants and their communities, and advances public safety.  
More than 300 social workers, investigators and paralegals from 41 states will gather each day this week to hone their craft and strategize how to bring their unique skills to the traditional attorney- and courtroom-centered legal practice of public defense. They will meet for NAPD’s ‘We the Defenders’ conference at the Crown Plaza hotel. 
“This conference highlights a national effort to find alternative systems for incarceration that actually solve our community problems. This can’t just happen in court. It’s a team effort. Public defense agencies across the country and in New Mexico are recognizing this,” said KC Quirk, social work director for the New Mexico Law Offices of the Public Defender.
The conference features local recovery advocates, including a keynote address from Natasha Garcia, Executive Director of the New Mexico Reentry Center. Prominent public defense, social work, investigator and paralegal leaders from across the country will be in attendance.

“The pursuit of justice requires an interdisciplinary defense team that includes lawyers, investigators, social workers, and administrative staff working together to ensure that verdicts are accurate and sentences are appropriate,” said NAPD Executive Director Lori James-Townes. “Our clients and our communities both dramatically benefit when we provide this scope of services to society’s most vulnerable people.”