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.
Defending the Incarcerated Through the Prisoners’ Rights Project
For decades, our Prisoners’ Rights Project has fought to protect the rights of incarcerated New Yorkers. Our work on the frontlines has pushed the conversation around dangerous conditions in our jails and prisons, warning anyone who would listen about incarceration’s devastating impact on individuals, families, and communities. Now, with COVID-19 raging inside our prisons and jails, our work is more important than ever.
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.
In NYC alone, 47,000 people sit behind bars each year because they can’t afford their bail.
Vulnerable New Yorkers freed from incarceration during COVID-19 via 11 mass writs and individual case advocacy, contributing to a 28% drop in the population of Rikers Island over the course of 10 weeks.
Individual services to NYC Cure Violence partners and community members at 116 Outreach events by the Community Justice Unit.
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.