Alternative Sentencing Worker Program

The Alternative Sentencing Worker Program (ASWP) consists of a total of 53 ASWs statewide, including in Louisville and post-trial offices, with at least one in each field office, offering services to individuals represented by DPA attorneys. Through a referral process, DPA attorneys and ASWs identify individuals who suffer from substance abuse and/or mental health disorders, offering alternative options to the court, in lieu of incarceration. This program has received nationwide recognition and is now a pillar of DPA’s client-centered approach to representation.

The Alternative Sentencing Plan (ASP) that is developed by the individual and ASW, is an individualized comprehensive plan that address the individual’s underlying criminal behavior and facilitates rehabilitation.  The ASWP uses the evidence-based practice of Motivational Interviewing to enhance the value of the services and to increase the likely success of the program. The use of Motivational Interviewing helps engage the individuals’ willingness to start the treatment process thus improving the odds that treatment will have beneficial effects. While the DPA’s ASWP is not a treatment program, but a service more akin to case management, it has the goal of helping to motivate individuals into participating actively in treatment and rehabilitation. This is of critical importance because while court mandates can get individuals to attend treatment sessions, what individuals actually internalize and take away from treatment depends on their desire for change and acceptance of new information that ultimately results in positive changes in behavior.  

Dawn M. Gasser is the Alternative Sentencing Program Supervisor; she began her employment with DPA in 2016 at the Cynthiana Trial office.  Dawn holds a Bachelor’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University and has over 25 years’ experience in the human services field. She has served as a Family Services Worker Clinician II for DCBS and as a Victim Advocate for both the 18th and 25th Judicial Districts.  She also held the position of Commonwealth Detective for the 25th Circuit and wrote several VAWA and VOCA Grants during her employment with AOC.  Dawn was a Caseworker and Supervisor for Family Preservation Program through Community Action Council.  She led the KHIE initiative as an Outreach Coordinator and served as the Hospitalist Program Coordinator and PRN SW at Pattie A. Clay Hospital.  Dawn and her family reside in Richmond.

Alternative Sentencing Workers’ Role

  • ​Works as an agent of the defense attorney to assist clients charged with criminal offenses, specifically those with substance use disorders and/or mental health conditions
  • Conducts comprehensive assessments of clients to identify clients’ individualized needs
  • Makes referrals and appropriate arrangements for treatment, services, and resources
  • Assists clients with preparing Alternative Sentencing Plans to submit to the Court as an alternative to incarceration
  • Uses Evidence-Based Motivational Interviewing to facilitate clients’ readiness to start the treatment process
  • Builds rapport and gains clients’ active decisions to participate in rehabilitative interventions
  • Provides crisis intervention strategies to clients and their families
  • Educates families about the criminal justice system
  • Enters data into the case management system and performs all other documentation processes needed to serve clients
  • Conducts baseline and 12 month follow up interviews for program monitoring and evaluation
  • Facilitates collaboration between agencies within the criminal justice system to support rehabilitation, reduce recidivism, and promote public safety
  • Creates and updates community resource guides
  • Provides more detailed information about community resources, services, and programs, including eligibility guidelines and process to obtain services