Statement on National Public Defense Day and 55th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright

The Legal Aid Society released the following statement on the third anniversary of National Public Defense Day and 55th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright.

“March 18th marks the Third Annual National Public Defense Day and the 55th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright. We stand with public defenders throughout the nation in celebrating the constitutional right to counsel and the advocacy we do on behalf of clients. For 142 years, The Legal Aid Society has provided a voice for New Yorkers without a voice, has fought to reform broken systems that create injustice, and guarantee due process for New Yorkers who depend on us.

Every day — 365 days a year — our dedicated staff of 2000 people make the promise established in Gideon a reality in courtrooms and communities throughout New York City with their excellence, dedication, and compassion. Now more than ever we need to stand steadfast for justice, fairness and equity.”

Women’s History Month Spotlight: Legal Aid’s Women’s Pre-Trial Release Project

  Jane-Roberte Sampeur  , Staff Attorney with the Decarceration Project at The Legal Aid Society

Jane-Roberte Sampeur, Staff Attorney with the Decarceration Project at The Legal Aid Society

The criminal justice system continuously fails communities of color by incarcerating people simply because they cannot afford to pay for bail. We know that this has a disastrous effect in these communities, forcing people to be uprooted from their homes, families, jobs and educational opportunities. The Legal Aid Society is one of the principal advocates for bail reform and reducing the pre -trial detention population in New York City. Our Criminal Defense Practice created the Decarceration Project with the goal of reducing and eventually eliminating the unnecessary pre-trial incarceration of poor people in New York City. This Project has launched several initiatives that focus on restructuring how we have traditionally pursued bail advocacy by moving resources used in trial advocacy or sentencing mitigation to the very beginning of the criminal process.

In the fall of 2017, The Legal Aid Society and Fedcap along with several community partners launched the Women’s Pre-Trial Release Project. Coordinated by Staff Attorney Jane-Roberte Sampeur, this alternative to detention program is aimed at securing the release of women who are held at Rikers, away from their families and communities simply because they cannot afford bail. The goal is to provide support and resources for our female clients to enhance their overall stability and continued engagement so that they can continue to support their families, be active in their communities, and fight their pending criminal court cases.

The Project provides each participant with a path for building economic stability, wellness, and community through the following integral components:

  • Strong immediate support and continued coordinated care.
  • The crafting of both an Initial Service Connections Plan and Long-Term Individualized Plan, designed around each woman’s stated needs and present capacity.
  • Assistance and advocacy in applying for benefits, securing housing and otherwise interfacing with governmental agencies like the Administration for Children’s Services and the Department of Homeless Services.
  • Help in accessing medical assessments and necessary care.
  • Structured employment training and job placement through Fedcap’s specialized programs.
  • Financial literacy and assigned individual mentors in partnership with High Water Women.
  • Self-care workshops given by community providers around wellness, goal orientation, financial literacy and smart spending, parenting, etc.
  • Self-advocacy trainings by Fedcap’s Director of Social Justice Initiatives and different legal organizations on criminal, family, housing, education and mental health law.

The Women’s Pre-Trial Release Project was a direct response to the mass incarceration of women and is one of our many continued efforts to achieve real bail reform in New York City.


Diversity Digest | Women's History Month Edition


During Women's History Month, The Legal Aid Society stands in solidarity with women across the nation. We are proud to join in honoring the extraordinary and transcendent contributions that women have made to our city and to the Society. 

The struggle for gender equality has been a long, historical battle that is deeply rooted in the labor and progressive movement.  In the 1970s, several feminist groups organized to incorporate women's history into California's school curriculum. This movement was the catalyst for several women's celebrations in schools across the country. Almost a decade later, President Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980 as National Women's History Week. Finally, in 1987, Congress declared March as National Women's History Month. This month gives us the opportunity to celebrate the many acts of courage, strength, and resilience by women worldwide. 

Every year, The Legal Aid Society recognizes Women's History Month as a time to honor the strong women in our organization who drive change in our communities every day. We will continue to advocate for all of our female clients: the mothers, young women and trans women from communities of color and poverty who experience multiple layers of oppression. We recognize that although the women's movement has made great strides, we must never stop fighting against the systems that perpetuate gender inequality, sexism, and misogyny.

We will continue to celebrate our Heritage Months in distinctive ways that honor these communities. This month we will be sending out weekly information about the amazing work we do at LAS to protect female communities.

The Legal Aid Society Celebrates 142nd Anniversary & International Women’s Day

The Legal Aid Society issued the following statement today celebrating the organization’s 142nd anniversary and International Women’s Day:

“As The Legal Aid Society’s 142nd anniversary coincides with the celebration of International Women’s Day today, we stop and reflect over the recent changes that have taken place. The vision of our founders in 1876 that equal access to justice should not be denied because of poverty was a tremendous dream that we work every day to make a reality.

From its early days, The Legal Aid Society has particularly championed the rights of women, fighting for immigrant working women who needed the protection of the law with wage and dismissal claims. Today, our clients include survivors of domestic abuse, undocumented women seeking a living wage, homeless women trying to secure a safe place for their children to sleep, trans women fighting for health care and women held at Rikers away from their families and communities simply because they cannot afford bail. We are the change for women in New York City, but we do not lose sight of the plight of women throughout the world. We stand in solidarity with those celebrating throughout the world the extraordinary and transcendent contributions of women.

The words of the Honorable Learned Hand, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, spoken at the 75th anniversary celebration of The Legal Aid Society in 1951, were never truer than they are today: “If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: Thou Shalt Not Ration Justice.” Today, in the face of new challenges confronting our clients, we stand with them, steadfast for justice.”