Skip to content

True stories build bridges

Advancing Real Change, Inc. is transforming the criminal legal system with direct services for clients, training and support for criminal defense teams, and coalition building.

Donate Now

About our work

What is mitigation?

The criminal legal system too often causes more harm than it repairs. Many decision-makers – such as judges, juries, and prosecutors – consider only the crime and ignore the accused person’s redeeming qualities, the community that cares for them, their experiences, and their potential for growth. This leads to sentences that are excessive, capricious, and discriminatory and that contribute to the current epidemic of mass incarceration in the United States. To achieve truly just outcomes, the full, true story of a person’s life must be told. This is the heart of our work.

Detailed information about the lives of individuals accused of crimes – called “mitigating evidence” – can help decision-makers understand their full personhood and particular circumstances and choose more humane sentences. This work involves many hundreds of hours meeting with our clients, interviewing scores of witnesses, and collecting records to develop an accurate, detailed, multi-dimensional account of the client’s life.

Every individual deserves the opportunity to have their history heard when facing the loss of life or liberty. Sharing this evidence can dramatically change individual outcomes for the better and reduce mass incarceration.

Our Services

Advancing Real Change, Inc., provides direct services as members of defense teams to people facing extreme sentences and trains defenders throughout the country. We use our knowledge, grounded in practice and research, to instigate systemic change in partnership with experts, practitioners, and community members.

Direct Mitigation Services: Our staff members serve as mitigation specialists on criminal defense teams for poor clients across the country. The evidence we unearth is shared with decision-makers, leading to more humane sentences based on a full understanding of our clients’ lives and allowing us to create re-entry plans that respond to a client’s true needs. Because of our work, more than 90% of our clients have avoided the worst potential outcomes in their cases. They have their full lives ahead of them and the potential for growth and change. Some have and will one day return to their communities.

Training and Education: Effectively collecting mitigating evidence and developing true, detailed life histories is painstaking and requires significant skill and training. Advancing Real Change, Inc., is a leading provider of training and support to a growing community of defense team members across the country. We do this through in-person and virtual training events, online resources, and consulting. We provide these services free of charge in order to ensure that every person facing the loss of their life or liberty has a skilled team of defenders advocating for them. Fees for high-quality legal education can also limit the professional diversity our clients need for effective representation. Our no-cost trainings remove that barrier. Our training and education offerings have been accessed by more than 2,500 practitioners. Our training and education offerings have been accessed by more than 2,500 practitioners.

Learn more about our Training and Education program.

Mitigation and system change: Advancing Real Change, Inc., is building a coalition of defenders and advocates that understand the value of mitigation and the way that developing and sharing true life histories fosters empathy and human dignity in the criminal legal system. Mitigation provides a path toward a deeper understanding, not only of individuals and their unique histories, but also of how our collective social systems fail and how these failures lead to harm.

Our Impact

Advancing Real Change, Inc., is transforming the lives of individuals and making a long-term impact on the criminal legal system.


of our clients receive shorter and more humane sentences


criminal defense team members have accessed our training and resources


of our cases have been in high-needs jurisdictions in the past 5 years

We are committed to transparency.

Featured Resources

View All Resources

2023 Baltimore Mitigation Skill-Building Training

The application for this training is now closed. Please direct all training questions to Mary Roberts at [email protected]. The training,…

  • October 11
  • 8:30 am EDT
  • Presenter: Dr. Jill Patterson



Part II – How to Locate Witnesses and Find Out (Almost) Anything Online

This webinar has been rescheduled for the date shown (originally set for 9/26). Registrants for both dates will receive a…

  • October 17
  • 1:00 pm EDT
  • April Mecham

Ask a Mitigation Specialist

Ask a Mitigation Specialist – October 18, 2023

Ask a Mitigation Specialist, a pilot resource program that allows defenders to meet directly and privately with a mitigation specialist…

  • October 18
  • 3:00 pm EDT
  • Shantel Rodriguez and Dana Cook

Donate Now

Your support allows us to serve our clients, provide free training and education to defense teams across the country, and offer online resources.


Get Involved

ARC depends on our community to instigate change. Sign up to volunteer, become a pen pal, and more.

Learn More

Sign up to receive the latest news and updates from Advancing Real Change, Inc.

We send one to two updates a month about our work and upcoming opportunities. Click the box below if you are a criminal defense practitioner and would like to receive advance notice about training and education events.

By providing your email above, you agree to our Privacy Policy.