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Defending the Accused & Incarcerated

As New York City’s primary public defender, we believe advocacy must not only take place in the courtroom, but also in the communities where our clients live and work. Our holistic practice provides zealous, experienced representation to our clients. Every day our defenders are engaging clients, community members, and advocacy groups, helping to amplify the voices of people affected by a broken criminal legal system, especially those who are incarcerated in jail, prison or detention centers.

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Every day, in courthouses and communities across the city our Criminal Defense team advocates for the rights of all New Yorkers. Learn more about the services we provide.

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Making a Difference

Projects, Units & Initiatives

Our specialized teams have experience working on nearly every area of law that impacts New Yorkers. Explore the ways we fight on behalf of clients and communities.

A Day in the Life

Fighting Mass Incarceration in the Decarceration Project

As Staff Attorneys in the Decarceration Project, Jane-Roberte Sampeur and Liz Bender are on the front-lines of the fight against mass incarceration and unfair bail determinations.

Jane Roberte-Sampeur stands outside in Manhattan
Jane Roberte-Sampeur The Decarceration Project
Our Work with Partners

Exonerating the Innocent

After five years of investigation and advocacy, lawyers from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP and The Legal Aid Society successfully secured vacatur of the second-degree murder conviction of pro bono client Shawn Williams, who was wrongfully convicted for a 1993 shooting, for which he had served more than 20 years in prison.

By the Numbers

As the primary public defender in New York City, our impact goes beyond any single case or client. We’re committed to addressing systemic inequities in the criminal legal system so no one is denied their right to freedom and the presumption of innocence.

47,000

In NYC alone, 47,000 people sit behind bars each year because they can’t afford their bail.

6,954

We saved our clients 6,954 days of jail time from January-October 2018.

44%

From March of 2017 to June 2018 our Decarceration Project won the release of 44% of our clients who were held on Rikers Island because they could not afford to pay bail.

A contribution to The Legal Aid Society is about more than money.

Every donation helps us offer essential legal services to thousands of everyday New Yorkers, helping people buy food, pay rent, and care for themselves and their families.

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