AmeriCorps Opportunities

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NOW RECRUITING: MSPD Resource Development VISTAs

MSPD has partnered with AmeriCorps VISTA in pioneering a more holistic approach to public defense in Missouri – an approach that seeks to addresses the underlying needs and risk factors of criminal defendants outside of the scope of traditional representation. Nearly a century of legal, criminological, and sociological research has shown that the challenges criminally accused people face are rooted in poverty and neighborhood disadvantage, creating instability in people’s lives which manifests as untreated physical and mental health conditions, violence, substance abuse, residential instability, unemployment, and a lack of social support. The unfortunate reality is that the vast majority of MSPD clients are afflicted by these risk factors.

VISTA Members will develop the framework for a holistic approach in the pre-trial stage of criminal proceedings, allowing for MSPD to help address the underlying needs of poor defendants. Specifically, VISTA members will be responsible for

  • Reviewing actions taken in first year of the project, as well as current regulations, tools, and procedures related to MSPD client intake, and any existing efforts to address the extralegal needs of MSPD clients
  • Conducting internal analysis to identify the regional needs of clients, the resources that have already been identified, and the quality of existing connections
  • Conferring with holistic defense organizations and MSPD staff experienced in social work initiatives to understand successful strategies to aid clients outside of the courtroom
  • Investigating local community resources that can partner with MSPD in addressing the needs of clients, developing working relationships, and mapping out community resources with detailed guides for MSPD staff,
  • Establishing organizational standards for the assessment of client needs, the connecting of clients to resources, and collection of project data, and providing direct support to MSPD staff
  • Producing a report outlining the intervention strategies and summarizing collected data, and more

Those who wish to have a positive impact on the criminal legal system and its intersection with poverty and social instability in Missouri are encouraged to join us in our effort to support our vulnerable neighbors and deliver a more equitable approach to the criminal legal system. Qualified candidates will be inquisitive, collaborative, resourceful, open-minded, effective at expressing complex concepts, and hold a passion for public service. Preferred candidates will display effective leadership, organization, communication, and project management skills. Ideal candidates will have excellent attention to detail, strong computer skills, and a general knowledge of statistics or data collection. The project will take place from 6/6/2022 to 6/6/2023 and will be based out of the Office of the Director in Columbia, Missouri. Remote work is a possibility.

To apply for the position, visit the AmeriCorps opportunity listing

If you have questions about the program, please contact Lucas Dowdall at

Americorps VISTA offers a wide range of benefits for VISTA members; such as health coverage, an end of service education award or stipend, childcare assistance, living allowance and relocation allowance, as well as professional development training.
For a more comprehensive look at Americorps VISTA benefits, visit the VISTA campus

Many universities offer scholarships, application fee waivers, and other benefits to AmeriCorps members. You can find school-specific details on the Schools of National Service list

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Previous Project Years

The Inaugural year of MSPD’s VISTA project focused specifically on client intake procedures. VISTA Members Natalie and Larin joined MSPD in January 2021, and have worked to increase the capacity of MSPD intake procedures in their short time with MSPD by:

  • Extensively training in the regulations, procedures, and practices that determine eligibility for Missouri State Public Defender services.
  • Investigating and analyzing the regulations, procedures, and practices of other public defense organization and the associated systemic effects.
  • Gathering vital information about various costs of living and private counsel in all of Missouri’s 114 counties.
  • Investigating resources and procedures to ensure verification of applicant information.
  • Collaborating with outside organizations – such as Arch City Defenders and Washington State’s Office of the Public Defender in determining best intake practices and resources.
  • Auditing eligibility determinations and surveying office staff to analyze compliance with current guidelines and establish training needs.
  • Assessing the accuracy and applicability of current guidelines in determining and defining indigence.

Future AmeriCorps VISTA Members will build off the tremendous work of Natalie and Larin in further improving the capacity of MSPD and the quality of services provided to our clients