Partners for Justice (PFJ), a nationally recognized nonprofit that partners with public defender agencies to transform the criminal legal system, recently awarded Office of Defense Services (ODS) Director of Training and Development, Dawn Williams, with its Legacy Award. Williams received the award for her dedication to collaborative defense and her years of mentoring the next generation of advocates.
“I am truly honored to win this award, but it is an award to be shared with my colleagues at ODS – all of whom recognize the immense value of collaborative, holistic defense. It is an absolute privilege to serve as a mentor to the advocates and to help them grow and use their skills to the betterment of our clients’ lives,” Williams said. “The mission of PFJ and that of our office is something that resonates deeply within me, and it is a privilege to protect the full potential of our clients each and every day.”
Partners for Justice places advocates at public defender agencies throughout the country to work collaboratively with attorneys. Advocates assist clients with ancillary matters, such as finding housing, signing up for benefits, and seeking treatment. Wilmington was one of PFJ’s pilot sites and advocates with PFJ now operate in 25 different locations nationwide.
Williams, a long-time public defender, is responsible for the office’s training program to develop and guide attorneys throughout their career. In 2018, she also began to manage Delaware’s cohort of PFJ advocates.
“We founded Partners for Justice on the belief that if we empowered public defenders everywhere, we could shift the balance of power in American criminal courts. We envisioned defenders as an engine of health, safety, equity and opportunity, working both inside the courtroom and in the community to do more for the people they serve,” said PFJ Founder and Co-Executive Director, Emily Galvin Almanza. “Dawn has been there since the beginning of this journey, implementing our pilot in Wilmington and growing our program statewide in Delaware, embodying the values of the collaborative defense movement. That’s why we wanted to recognize her extraordinary commitment and achievements with the 2022 PFJ Legacy Award.”
“Dawn is a remarkable colleague and mentor who is committed to our office’s mission and values,” said ODS Chief Defender Kevin O’Connell. “Our clients, colleagues, and the advocates who are placed in this office are fortunate to have Dawn in their corner. She has been a trusted colleague for so many years, and a person who everyone in the office, including myself, turns to when we need counsel, advice, or, sometimes, just someone to listen. This award is so well-deserved, and we are thankful to Dawn for her work in building the next generation of advocates passionate about public defense.”
A video honoring Dawn can be viewed here.