Family Service Agency Announces $500K in Funding for Evidence-based Holistic Defense Program

Family Service Agency (FSA) has received a $498,524 grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to conduct a pilot study of Adult Holistic Defense Case Management (AHDCM) in partnership with the Santa Barbara County Public Defender’s Office. The goal of AHDCM is to reduce recidivism through individualized case management that addresses the life circumstances leading to criminal behavior.  FSA and the Public Defender’s Office will also partner with the University of California Berkeley. The program will be the first of its kind to track and measure whether and how the different elements of a holistic defense program reduce recidivism.

By integrating legal and social services to promote desistance from criminal behavior, Holistic Defense represents a cultural shift from focusing on the criminal act and resulting punishment, to a client-centered approach that reduces recidivism by stabilizing offenders’ lives.

“Holistic Defense provides community support and interventions aimed at addressing the underlying risk factors that contribute to an individual’s criminal actions,” said Family Service Agency Executive Director, Lisa Brabo.  “For example, a man arrested for shoplifting may have substance abuse or mental health issues; he may be homeless. If those needs aren’t successfully addressed, it’s highly likely he will repeat criminal behavior.”

“We want to express our sincere thanks to the Laura and John Arnold Foundation for selecting the Santa Barbara Public Defender’s Office to participate in the Adult Holistic Defense Case Management Study,” Said Kenneth Clayman, Santa Barbara County Public Defender. “We look forward to helping our clients achieve success in their lives and reduce recidivism while creating a safer and productive society.”

Modeled on the Bronx Defender’s program, FSA’s Holistic Defense program is similar to existing holistic defense programs, but differs in that it is (1) a partnership between a community service agency and the Public Defender’s Office that (2) employs a research element to ascertain the effectiveness of the program in reducing recidivism.


The Holistic Defense team will consist of the client, Public Defender and a licensed clinical advocate embedded in the Public Defender’s office. The clinical advocate will work with the public defender conducting assessments and making referrals to treatment programs and social service providers.

Researchers at UC Berkeley will track and measure outcomes to determine if recidivism is reduced. Successful implementation of this pilot model could lead to replication and impact policy in the State of California, and potentially, nationwide.

For more information on Holistic Defense, the public is invited to attend a presentation by The Bronx Defenders on Tuesday, October 11 from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in the Faulkner Gallery at the Santa Barbara Public Library, 40 E Anapamu St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Please RSVP to 805-965-1001 x245.


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