Social Biography Videos


 Production // Trainings // Testimonials

The Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project(ACJP), a media and advocacy project, produces social biography videos and gives trainings to public defender offices on how to create social biography videos (also called mitigation videos) to humanize clients for purposes of impacting sentencing, plea-negotiations, and more. The organization has produced a range of social biography videos that were used to successfully reduce sentences and charges. The videos can be made quickly, inexpensively, and are an effective tool for defense attorneys advocating for their clients. It is, in short, the evolution of mitigation work. See below to read testimonials from attorneys and judges on trainings, use of our videos, as well as media coverage and awards ACJP has received for social biography videos. 


The ACJP offers various trainings and technical assistance to public defender offices and criminal defense firms who want to learn how to produce these cost-effective videos in house.  The ACJP has years of experience training public defender offices, advocacy organizations, and non-profit organizations on story-telling and video production. Through our interactive training, an office with no prior experience will be able to produce social biography videos  to integrate this tool into their mitigation work. Participants typically include attorneys, investigators, paralegals, and social workers. Trainings options range from half-day to full days based on the needs and size of the office. See photos from trainings in New York, Alabama, Texas, Missouri, and North Carolina.
This hands-on interactive training covers:
• Anatomy of a Social Biography Video — Case and Video Examples
• Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production Process
• Effective Strategies for Telling Client’s Story Through Video
• Social Biography Video Starter Toolkit – Tips on Equipment, Software, and Project Management
• Make a Video in a Day — Based on sample cases, Participants will Produce a Video From Start to Finish (narrative development, shooting, editing)




Jonathan Rapping, President of Gideon's Promise

Jonathan Rapping, Founder/President of Gideon’s Promise: “As public defenders our greatest challenge is to force the system to see our clients as people; to learn their stories and share them in ways that are powerful and effective. We must do this at every stage of the representation from bail hearings, to plea negotiations, to trial advocacy, to sentencing advocacy. Social biography videos provides us an effective and inexpensive way to re-humanize our clients. When Raj Jayadev of ACJP joined our movement of public defenders to give a workshop on how to make these videos, it provided this army of advocates with a new tool to fight back against a system that has become complacent about processing people because it no longer sees them as more than the crime with which they are accused.”


Chris Flood, New York Federal Defender Office

Christopher Flood, New York Federal Defender’s Office: “The ACJP training was simply revolutionary for our office. Raj and his truly excellent team of trainers showed us just how easily social biography videos could be integrated into our work on behalf of our clients. Best of all, they showed us how we could do it ourselves! By the end of the day, we all felt capable of putting an effective social biography video together. We were absolutely blown away. Raj and the people at De-Bug are amazing teachers, truly understand advocacy, are committed to our common struggle, and are really enjoyable people to get to know. Our office is doing more effective work for having brought ACJP in for a single day of training.”



Sabra Barnett, Alabama Federal Defender’s Office: “The ACJP training has changed my position on sentencing videos. Before I came to Montgomery for your training, I didn’t think a video could do justice for my clients – that the persuasive writing of a sentencing memo was the only way to plead for a sentencing reduction. I am now sold on the sentencing video. I am absolutely amazed at how effective and powerful the video can be in such a short amount of time. I’m also convinced that this is the future of sentencings. ”





Judge Ladoris Cordell

Judge LaDoris Cordell: “For nearly 20 years, I was a California state court trial judge in Santa Clara County. Sentencing is perhaps the most difficult aspect of judging, because our decisions can have the most profound impact on the lives of defendants. Yet we judges have only two sources of information to prepare us to sentence these individuals — prosecutors (who rely on information from probation officers) and defense attorneys. Now, social biography videos, the brainchild of the Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project, have transformed sentencing hearings. These videos humanize defendants, destroy stereotypes, and leave judges with a far better understanding of the persons standing before them.”




Simin Samji

Simin Shamji, Deputy Public Defender, Director of Specialty Courts: “Social biography videos are innovative, compelling, and most importantly, effective.  Video biographies bring life to what a sentencing memorandum can only hope to accomplish.   The San Francisco Public Defender’s Reentry Social Work Unit recently presented a video biography produced by ACJP at the sentencing hearing of a client who was convicted of robbery.   The results were amazing.  The judge eventually dismissed a prior conviction and sentenced the client to a fraction of the potential sentence, eliminating almost a decade from the final sentence.  The ACJP team saved our client many years in prison, for which his wife and four year old son will forever be grateful.”




Willard-JJ-336x379Supervising Assistant Santa Clara County Public Defender JJ Kapp: “The video the ACJP made for us made a substantial impact! It allowed us to introduce our client’s daughter Angela to the District Attorney’s Office in a very meaningful way. Angela explained how her dad had changed and specifically how she would be involved in his re-entry. By getting to know Angela, the DA’s Office found that our predictions of re-entry success for her father were credible and viable.”




Attorney Stephen Lewis of Stephens Baroni Reilly & Lewis in White Plains New York: “I want to thank all at Silicon Valley De-Bug’s ACJP for the professional and effective social biographical video that I recently used in my case in the Southern District of New York. The client  faced a guideline range of 91 to 120 months; the government recommended a guideline sentence, probation recommend four years and the Court imposed a sentence of six months incarceration that included 90 days of home detention. I have no doubt that the video that you produced played a determinative role in that outcome. The Court specifically referenced the video in it’s sentencing decision. Thanks for all the hard work.”




Below are three examples, and their impact on the outcome of the case.

Brice: Outcome, Reduced Potential 15 Year Sentence by Half
This video was used during sentencing, played at the hearing on a screen, and resulted in the winning of a Romero motion to strike a strike prior, and for the judge to select the mitigated term of the sentence. Brice’s exposure to 15 years was reduced to five and a half years.


Will  — Outcome, Won His Release from a 3 Strikes Case (6:50)
This video was produced in under a week, and was requested by the defense attorney. It was used to stop the DA’s office from contesting his re-sentencing, as Will was eligible for re-sentencing through Prop.36. The defense attorney gave the video to the DA’s 3 Strikes panel, and he said it was “very effective.” The video was produced under the editorial guidance of the attorney.


This video is an accompaniment to the “Xavier España: Social Biography and Future Prospects Portfolio” — a compilation of letters, photos, written testimonies and certificates describing Xavier from the perspective of his family, church, and educational mentors.




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