Fighting for Increased Fairness and Humanity in the Criminal Justice System
Giving Clients a Second Chance
The Parole Advocacy Project represents clients serving upstate jail sentences as they go before the Parole Board for discretionary release. Under current law, New Yorkers are not entitled to counsel for these appearances— making an already intimidating process even more daunting. The assistance of an attorney, social worker, and paralegal to help prepare advocacy packets makes a critical difference in securing their release.
In March 2018, a client was granted parole release after serving 15 years of a 12-to-life sentence due to the dedication of our social work team. Our team’s preparation allowed him to make a powerful case regarding the connection between the childhood loss of his grandparent-caretakers and his adolescent use of drugs and delinquency. Since his release, he’s been working steadily and thriving as a son, husband, father, and grandfather.
We’re pushing for more people being released, more people getting services, more people being treated as human beings.
Helping Clients Apply for Jobs without Fear of Discrimination Based on Criminal Records
One of The Legal Aid Society’s Equal Justice Works Fellows provides direct representation and community education to low-income New Yorkers with criminal records to combat employment barriers and facilitate successful reentry for formerly incarcerated clients. Their work is in response to New York City’s Fair Chance Act, a legislative change enacted in 2015 that seeks to reduce job discrimination based on a prospective employee’s criminal record. The Act bans questions about criminal history on job applications and in interviews, and bans job advertisements looking for applicants without criminal records. As a result, more than five million New Yorkers with criminal records gain the opportunity to demonstrate qualifications without fear of discrimination. We’re developing a new program, the Second and Fair Chance Initiative, to expand our capacity to do this work.
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.
We saved our clients 6,954 days of jail time from January-October 2018.
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.
Time Saved, Not Time Served
Every day, New Yorkers across the city and state languish in prisons and jails for days, even weeks, after their sentences are up. Faulty sentencing calculations force these people to face the daunting physical and emotional challenges of extended incarceration, all while taxpayer dollars are being used to prolong their unnecessary and unlawful custody.
In October 2017, we introduced the Time Saved Campaign—an initiative of the Decarceration Project—which works to ensure that New Yorkers do not remain in jail because of an administrative error in sentence calculation.
A contribution to The Legal Aid Society is about more than money.
Every donation helps us offer essential legal services to thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers, helping people buy food, pay rent, and care for themselves and their families.