Melissa Kupferberg Annual Training Scholarship

You are here

The Melissa Kupferberg Annual Training Scholarship, through the National Alliance of Sentencing Advocates and Mitigation Specialists (NASAMS), recognizes Melissa's life work and commitment to providing indigent persons accused of criminal violations of state and federal law with zealous, client-centered advocacy through providing high quality training for all members of the defense team and promoting best practices for client representation in non-capital cases.

2017 Scholarship

For over 20 years, the National Alliance of Sentencing Advocates and Mitigation Specialists has hosted the Life in Balance and NASAMS conferences, premier training and networking events designed, especially, for defense team social workers. Melissa Kupferberg, in addition to her many contributions to the profession of sentencing advocacy, was Vice Chair of NASAMS and Co-chair of NASAMS annual conferences. NASAMS provides this training scholarship in recognition of her legacy.

On June 7-9, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland, NLADA is hosting three days of conferences that will bring together NASAMS, the Community-Oriented Defender (COD) Network, and the American Council of Chief Defenders (ACCD). By convening all members of holistic defense teams and leaders of their agencies, we aim to create a unified space in which to build a diverse and interdisciplinary public defense coalition.

This year's scholarship provides:

  • $300.00 for air travel to Baltimore, MD
  • A full tuition for the NASAMS and COD conferences
  • Three (3) nights of lodging, for the NASAMS and COD conferences  
  • The cost of Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for NASAMS and COD conferences


The scholarship is available only to NASAMS members. Attendance at the 2017 NASAMS and COD conferences is required.

How to Apply

To apply, please submit:

  • An essay of 1,500 words or fewer which addresses the following:
    • Your statement of need and your current sentencing, social work or mitigation work;
    • The objectives you wish to achieve by attending the conference;
    • How your participation at the conference may impact the work you do;
    • How you will share the information you gained by attending the conference.
  • Two references from attorneys, defense-based social workers, investigators and/or sponsoring agency. Your references should be knowledgeable of your commitment to sentencing and equal justice.

Applications are due Friday, March 24, 2017 by 5pm EST.   

A team of NASAMS board members and a family member of Melissa’s will review applications and determine the scholarship winner.  The winner will be informed by Friday, March 31, 2017, so that he or she may secure airline and hotel accommodations.   

Please mail your completed application to:

Betsy Biben, Chief, Office of Rehabilitation and Development (ORD)

Public Defender Service for D.C.

633 Indiana Ave, NW

Washington, DC 20004

Or via electronic submission: [email protected]

NOTE: It is the candidate’s responsibility to ensure that the completed application has been received on time.    


The Melissa Kupferberg Annual Conference Scholarship promotes her life work and her commitment to zealous advocacy, training, and best practices of client representation in non-capital cases for indigent persons arrested in state or federal criminal court cases. Melissa exemplified this mission. Through her persistent hard work and long hours, scholarly work and training, as well as dedication and compassion, Melissa became a shining star in our profession. Melissa worked in the capital and non-capital communities in Arizona and Florida. She did not take the easy road; she traveled many an unpaved road and gently gathered each stone knowing the gems she might find in each person she represented. Melissa always went beyond the call of duty with each person she met, whether client, colleague, or friend. She loved exploring her clients’ lives and was passionate about the mysteries within each of us. She was one of the greatest listeners in the profession. This led clients, as well as friends, to trust her and confide their secrets, knowing they would be safe. Melissa had the uncanny ability to become a cherished part of someone’s life within minutes of meeting her. She embraced life and all it had to offer.

Melissa was Vice Chair of NASAMS and Co-chair of NASAMS annual conferences. She was an active board member. She had co-developed and presented an ethics training for social workers in defenders offices and had planned to concentrate on writing professional articles on the subject. Melissa had also begun to develop a graduate school curriculum on defense-based mitigation training. In the years before she died, Melissa provided training throughout the country for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Office of Defender Services, where she was a greatly sought-after facility member. Melissa nearly completed her co-authored handbook for mitigation investigators, specialists, and social science experts.