We partner with local grassroots organizations, activities, and elected officials to positively change the lives of our clients and their families. By improving our community, we are building the next generation of Bronx leaders.
Voter Enfranchisement Project
Can people who have been convicted of a felony vote? What about those convicted of a misdemeanor? Ask the average citizen about their voting rights and confusion abounds. But in New York, the only time you lose your right to vote is while you are serving time in prison or on parole. Even for those on parole, bars to voting can be lifted with a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities.
But when it comes to keeping people from the polls, myths and misconceptions can be as powerful, and more insidious, than legal disenfranchisement. Many people with criminal convictions believe that they can’t vote. Others have lost faith in a political system that has marginalized their needs and voices. The Voter Enfranchisement Project works to educate people about their rights and promote meaningful civic participation among people who have been through the criminal justice system. We walk the streets registering voters and go to Rikers Island to help eligible voters obtain absentee ballots. To encourage clients to feel invested in political races, we produce a non-partisan guide for every voting cycle that breaks down each candidate’s positions on the issues that most affect Bronx residents.
Community Arts Exchange
Through our partnership with PS 29, we expand and transform the role of a public defender office in the community by developing relationships with children, families, and school administrators separate from the legal case. The Community Arts Exchange provides an opportunity for The Bronx Defenders staff to engage with third and fourth graders through an after-school arts and literacy program. We use creative activities to encourage students to critically examine their neighborhood and to build skills and self-esteem. At the end of each year, they work with a local artist to design and execute intricate murals of their skyline, their families, and their goals.
During the summer, we bring neighborhood children together for “Explore the City,” an educational summer camp. Through shows, field trips, art projects, and literacy activities, children learn about the parts of New York outside of the South Bronx. Whether they are visiting the Studio Museum of Harlem or canoeing on the Bronx River, visiting a fashion designer’s workshop or learning a step show routine, we open the eyes of South Bronx children to worlds they may not otherwise experience.
Links Not Chains
Every year, tens of thousands of our clients, brothers, fathers, mothers, sisters cousins and friends are locked up in the New York State prison system. They are shut away behind bars and stripped of their freedoms, opinions, and rights as human beings. Links Not Chains was created to give voice to those who much of our society wants to ignore, wants to forget, wants to keep silent. Our prisons are filled with artists, songwriters, poets and journalists. In this space, you will find the words our incarcerated clients want to share with their families, friends, and the world.
Click here to see the Links Not Chains blog that is creating bonds in spite of prison walls.