Elizabeth Bender is on the front-lines of the fight against mass incarceration. As a staff attorney for the Decarceration Project, Elizabeth protects poor and powerless New Yorkers who end up in jail simply because they can’t to post bail.
Ending Mass Incarceration
Elizabeth works alongside the members of our Decarceration Project on a number of initiatives “to do what our name says,” she explains: “de-carcerate.” For Elizabeth, that goal is two pronged: first, she works to keep the pre-trial detention population as low as possible. In New York City alone, 47,000 people sit behind bars each year simply because they can’t afford bail. These New Yorkers risk losing their homes and livelihoods, all while struggling to survive in some of the most violent corrections facilities in the state, before they even make it to trial.
No matter the length of time, incarceration often has a devastating effect on people’s lives. Elizabeth helps her clients fight their unfair bail determinations and return home to their families. “We’re trying to make sure that as few presumptively innocent people as possible are detained.”
The second prong of Elizabeth’s work goes hand-in-hand with the first: equipping Legal Aid Society staff in other trial offices to be as effective as possible when fighting their own clients’ unfair bail determinations. Staff from the Decarceration Project has trained attorneys in all five boroughs and have presented their work to lawyers and advocates across the state. For Elizabeth, working with our staff, government officials, and partner organizations has given her and the Project a “more well-rounded idea about how different aspects of the criminal justice system are impacting our clients.”
days of jail time we saved our clients
“Our clients are fathers, sons, workers, mothers, daughters; they are our neighbors.” Elizabeth explains. “And they’re kept away from their families for want of a few thousand dollars.” The Decarceration Project is taking a stand for these New Yorkers. Elizabeth and her colleagues have won the release of 48% of the clients they have worked with, saving them over 1,500 days in jail over the past six months alone. And that’s not all – in recent months, the case for bail reform has gained momentum. As more advocates, government officials, and concerned New Yorkers lend their voice to this cause, Elizabeth will continue to fight to end money bail and make a lasting difference for generations of New Yorkers.
Want To Join The Fight?
With your help, Elizabeth and her colleagues can make equal justice a reality
for even more New Yorkers in need.