Rhode Island Public Defender

Our mission is to provide high quality representation to our clients, fulfilling the governmental obligation of effective assistance of counsel, fundamental fairness and due process. Our goal is to provide client-centered advice, holistic representation and zealous advocacy. Our commitment is to treat our clients with dignity, compassion and fairness.
Mary S. McElroy, Public Defender

Public Defender Divisions


Criminal Trial

Juvenile Trial

Parental Rights Trial

Appellate Division

Community Partnership


Social Services



Training and Legislation

Rhode Island Public Defender
160 Pine Street
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-3492


Public Defender Social Services Unit

The Social Services Unit provides a critical piece to the holistic representation practiced in the Rhode Island Office of the Public Defender. The Social Services Unit –comprised of six staff social workers and two special project social workers –assists Public Defender clients who have mental health, substance abuse and/or medical issues in order to enable effective and comprehensive representation of these individuals in court. Our staff social workers assist the Public Defender’s Office in all counties as part of the team providing direct representation in adult criminal cases; our special projects are sited in Providence Family Court and in the Providence Superior Court technical violation courtroom.
Our social workers assist attorneys in gathering information from and about clients in criminal and juvenile cases, and in facilitating dispositions of cases that serve the client’s interests. This work includes of clinical, mitigation, case management, and outreach components.

  • The clinical work done by our social workers involves completing clinical assessments using the bio-psychosocial model to find appropriate placements for our clients and divert them from incarceration into alternative treatment and community-based programs.  

  • The social workers also complete mitigation reports on individuals facing life sentences for capital offenses. These mitigations involve a thorough psychological assessment, assessment of client competency and level of functioning, objective evaluation of stress and trauma and assessment of psychological functioning and case histories.  

  • The case management component of our social services involves coordinating program involvement and obtaining non-jail residential placements and out-patient programs in the areas of substance and alcohol abuse and mental health issues.

  • Finally, our social workers and social work interns follow up with clients who have been placed in residential services, particularly those placed based on a court order in order to insure successful placement and reaching of client goals. This outreach serves both to make sure the client’s needs are met and to maintain a relationship with the placement site.

Social work services are provided only for those individuals represented by the Public Defender’s Office.
The Public Defender Social Services Staff are based at the Garrahy Courthouse (401 458-3050).

Copyright © 2013 Rhode Island Public Defender