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Our Impact

Advancing Systemic Change that Improves the Lives of All New Yorkers

Ending the Indiscriminate Shackling of Youth in Secure Detention

For over a year, the Legal Aid Society voiced our major concerns to the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) about their practice of shackling all youth in secure detention during transport without performing an individualized assessment of whether a specific youth presented a safety concern. The arbitrary, automatic restriction was excessive, unjustified and constituted a punitive restraint which violated the youths’ due process rights. Despite the fact that trips can last several hours, youth remain restrained during the entire journey, including in some cases transport for medical procedures.

The team from Davis Polk worked closely with our Special Litigation & Law Reform Unit to advocate on behalf of these children and began preparations for possible litigation. In June on 2018, ACS finally agreed to end indiscriminate shackling of youth in secure detention and began a system of individualized assessment. These changes helped ameliorate the added stress and discomfort to clients already kept away from their homes and families.

While other units are doing individual advocacy, we look at the big picture and solve those systemic problems.

Gina Starfield Paralegal, Special Litigation and Law Reform Unit

Challenging Social Media Intelligence Gathering

Many large social media companies allow developers to have unusual access to their data in order to build tools and apps that enhance the usability of the websites. Several developers have recently been exposed for abusing this privileged access by selling data and/or access to data to law enforcement agencies. As a result of this reporting, in October 2016, The Legal Aid Society submitted a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the Manhattan DA’s office to determine if they had contracts with these companies and if they did, if they had any office policy relating to this data. In response, the DA’s office refused even to confirm or deny the existence of responsive documents regarding their relationships, if any, with social media monitoring companies.

In December of 2017, we announced a lawsuit with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP against Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. seeking more information on his office’s use of social media monitoring services. This suit raises serious concerns about citizens’ ability to speak and assemble on the —as well as their privacy—particularly because the data itself was illegitimately made available by these rogue companies.

By the Numbers

Our work goes beyond individual cases to address corrosive inequities and fundamental problems within the legal system, driving landmark rulings that positively impact the lives of millions, in New York City and beyond.

52 cases

Our active law reform docket includes 52 cases.


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.


75% of our juvenile and adolescent clients who are prosecuted in adult court are released back their families and communities because of the advocacy of our Adolescent Intervention Diversion Unit.

Coming Soon!

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.

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