My Days At A Public Defenders Program

Back in the 1990s, I spent about 8-9 years working for the New Hampshire Public Defenders Program as an Investigator. I am sure you have heard of this type of program..."if you can't afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you by the court". Well, I was part of that program. In our office, in Manchester NH, we had approximately 20 attorneys. There were approximately 4-5 investigators in our office at any given time. The attorneys were divided up amongst the investigators in the office so we each had 4-5 attorneys that we worked directly with. Our job was to locate and interview witnesses to crimes and victims of crimes, write down all of the info that we obtained from everyone we interviewed, writing up and serving subpoenas amongst other things. The crimes ranged from misdemeanors to felony murder. This job would have me dealing with the full spectrum of humanity and visiting locations that ranged from beautiful homes to crack houses. I excelled at doing the job because of my background but I really struggled with the reason for me doing the work itself. I had a difficult time dealing with the internal conflicts, during my time doing this job. Most of my adult life I was employed doing law enforcement related duties. I started by joining the military and becoming a MP (Military Police) and after leaving the military, I joined a police department at a mid west university. I had always been a "cuff'm and stuff'm" type of person. I prided myself in catching the bad guy, making an arrest and taking them to jail. I truly enjoyed the chess match of a good interview, especially ones that lead to a confession. Now I was performing a job that had the completely opposite effect and possible legal outcome. Most of our clients, I would guess about 99% of them, were guilty. I did my job well but I continued to struggled with my own personal moral and ethical feelings about what I was doing and why I was doing it. I really had a very hard time dealing with the fact that even though the client might be guilty, it was my job to try to help him/her get the charges dropped, lowered or some type of agreement made between the prosecutor and our clients attorney. As the days and years dragged by, my mental and emotional conflicts increased. I still did my job as best as I could and I used excuses to reconcile the conflicts that I felt inside. I told myself that although approximately 99% of our clients were guilty of the crimes that they were charged with, that I was really doing my job for the other 1% that might actually be innocent. The innocent were few and far between but I had to do the best job I could so that an innocent person did not go to jail. As time went on, I had to somehow find ways...rationalize and talk myself into continuing to do the job that I was hired to do. To be honest, I hated the job itself and it went against everything that I believed in. I would have been much happier doing work on the "other side of the fence", than where I was. But it did pay the bills and put food on the table and that has to account for something. After approximately 8-9 years of doing that job, I ended up quitting and moving out of state. Believe me...I was so glad when that day came that I could finally release all of those internal conflicts that were associated with that job. Never again.

12 comments:

budh.aaah said...

Hi Rick!!!!!!!!!
sure am glad to see you back.

California Girl said...

I empathize with your story. My husband's last job was VP Mktg for a non profit that raises money for veterans with paralysis. he went into this job with all good intentions. Unfortunately, between a board of directors who used part of the fund raising to finance their Caribbean getaway "business mtgs" to the slime ball owners of the for profit print shop he worked under, he became so ill he suffered a debilitating back problem and went on an extended leave of absence. That was almost three years ago. He's improving now but the first 18 mos were scary as hell. I honestly didn't know if he'd sit or walk normally again. We thought we needed the income he provided but, in the long run, it wasn't worth it. Do what you love while you can.

mo_inoh said...

Well I had to use a public defender once and all i can say is thank you. At the time I had no job and money and got in a little trouble that could of turn into a big deal. so if no one ever told this thank you for people like you

Tanna of The Brick Street Bungalow said...

Amen. Never again. The price is high to go against your belief system... thank goodness for the 1%.

Lori Anderson Designs said...

I hear ya. There's no amount of money in the world that can make a bad job palatable. And a Public Defender is a thankless job -- you deserve a medal.

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Nadir Paes said...

Caro Rick!
Eu posso entender perfeitamente os conflitos que sentia nesta ocasião.

Acho até que você foi persistente e resistente demais. É muito difícil fazer algo contrário ao que acreditamos.

Ainda bem que você conseguiu livrar-se desta situação incômoda.

Abraços e sucesso!
Nadir

kanmuri said...

Wow, that must have been tough... I'm not sure I would be able to do such a job for that long...

♥ Kathy said...

I'm sure the 1% that were innocent appreciated you :)

Blue said...

You are a very strong person indeed! I'm not sure that I could have done that job for as long as you did.

I'm glad you're back!

Doublebanker said...

Great blog...

Voted for you on the Blogger Choice Awards...vote for Rick!

Daily Gif Blog

DB

Teaching The Teacher said...

I totally understand what you mean by you're working for the 1% who might be innocent. I worked for an attorney who did lots of criminal defense work, and it would make my skin crawl the types of criminals who came into our small town office to be defended. I did this for 11 years! I'm so glad I changed profession. Teaching means more to me than legal work. I guess I'm hoping to reach them before they become criminals. ;o)

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