The American Bar Association (ABA) today approved a resolution that urges criminal defense attorneys to take a comprehensive approach when representing their clients, addressing not only the criminal charges but also the possible causes and collateral consequences of a client's involvement in the criminal justice system.

The resolution, sponsored by the ABA Criminal Justice Section, was ratified by the ABA House of Delegates at the organization's Annual Meeting in Chicago. The New York State Bar Association is a co-sponsor of the resolution.

A report of the Criminal Justice Section says that many people who are convicted of crimes become repeat offenders.

"It is estimated that out of the 750,000 incarcerated men and women that were released in 2011, approximately two-thirds of them will likely be rearrested within three years," report states.  "If formerly incarcerated persons cannot find work, shelter, or help, they are much more likely to be caught up in a recurring cycle of crime."

The report also notes that "a majority of people who are incarcerated have extensive substance abuse histories and/or mental illness." Often such problems are left untreated, adding to the risk that these individuals will be rearrested in the future.

"The resolution's goal is to address criminal defendants as whole persons, assisting them in dealing with issues that are conducive to future criminal conduct. Addressing these issues will improve their chances of successfully returning to their communities after incarceration. In doing so, we reduce the recidivism rate and make our communities safer,"said State Bar President Seymour W. James, Jr. of New York City (The Legal Aid Society). 

The resolution urges criminal defense attorneys to work with civil practitioners as well as legal and social service organizations to address a client's civil and non-legal problems.  It calls for improved re-entry services, training for attorneys and increased government and foundation funding to provide   such services.

The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876.


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