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Alternative Sentencing Workers

Within the Defender Services Branch is the Department of Public Advocacy’s Alternative Sentencing Worker Program (ASWP). The ASWP consists of 45 ASWs in each field office, statewide, 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 in turn provides savings on counties and state incarceration costs. 

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. 


Alternative Sentencing Worker Program
  • ​Started in 2006 as a pilot project with 3 Social Workers
  • Program has expanded to include 45 positions at 35 locations across the state
  • SFY 2014 Alternative Sentencing Worker Program Evaluation conducted by University of Kentucky Center for Drug and Alcohol Research found:
  • 8 ASWs served 324 clients
  • Clients served 1,595 days out of the 11,292 days they would have served in the 12 months following initial plan approval, for a reduction on 85%
  • For every $1 spent on the ASW Program, there was a $5.66 return on investment
  • 86.1% of clients served had substance abuse treatment as their primary service need, with another 5.6% having it as a secondary service need
  • 34.4% of clients served had mental health treatment as their primary service need, with another 28.4% having it as a secondary service need
  • 79% were unemployed at the time of their arrest on current charges
  • 18.5% reported having a brain injury
  • The clients had a lifetime average of 8.4 previous incarceration episodes
  • Almost 35% of clients had less than a high school diploma or GED and 7.1% had even less than 9 years of education
  • 34.9% were at risk for being homeless if no alternative sentencing plan was in place
  • 39.6% were victims of physical abuse, 29.6% were victims of sexual abuse, and 41.1% were victims of psychological abuse
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