Redefining public defense.

The Bronx Defenders Publications

Holly Beck co-authors article in the New York Law Journal

Chris Gottlieb, co-director of the NYU School of Law Family Defense Clinic, and Holly Beck, staff attorney with The Bronx Defenders, write that when a court conducts a hearing in the absence of a defending party, an attorney who appears for that party may face a dilemma: whether to participate in the hearing, and thereby…

Fixing New York’s Broken Bail System

By Justine Olderman, 16 CUNY L. Rev. 9, CUNY Law Review (Winter 2012) New York City jails are currently filled with people who are serving time but haven’t been convicted of anything at all. They are there for one reason. They cannot afford the price of their bail. Bail is the single most important decision made in a…

The Four Pillars of Holistic Defense

While recognizing that Holistic Defense is practiced along a spectrum, the following core principles, or pillars, underlie and form the foundation of any successful Holistic Defense practice: 1. Seamless access to services that meet clients’ legal and social support needs; 2. Dynamic, interdisciplinary communication; 3. Advocates with an interdisciplinary skill set; 4. A robust understanding…

Know Your Rights: Police Encounters & Misconduct

Police Encounters & Misconduct 1. When can police stop me on the street? In theory, the police cannot stop you on the street without reason. A New York State Court of Appeals case (People v. DeBour 40 N.Y. 2d 210) established four levels of street encounters between police and people, and allows a different “Permissible…

Know Your Rights: Voting Rights and Civic Participation

Voting Rights and Civic Participation Civic participation includes all the ways citizens participate in the democratic process. It includes the right to vote, serve on a jury, and run for elected office. Voting Rights In New York State, as long as you are a U.S. citizen 18 or older, you can vote unless you are currently in…

Know Your Rights: Parental Rights

Parental Rights 1. Can I lose my parental rights if I am convicted of a crime? Only very serious criminal convictions against a child – like murder and manslaughter – require the state to sue to terminate your parental rights. 2. Can I lose my parental rights if I am sentenced to prison or a residential treatment…

Know Your Rights: Records of Arrest and Prosecution

Records of Arrest and Prosecution If you have been convicted, or even arrested, for a crime, there is a record of it, often in many places at once. The court where you were sentenced maintains records of your criminal case, and those are public information available to credit reporting agencies. A record of your arrests…

Know Your Rights: Government Benefits and Education Loans

Government Benefits and Education Loans If you are a New York State resident you can apply for and receive government benefits like Food Stamps, Medicaid, TANF and cash assistance, no matter how many convictions you may have on your rap sheet. However, arrest and incarceration can temporarily affect your government benefits and your eligibility for…

Know Your Rights: Housing and Arrests or Criminal Convictions

Housing and Reentry A criminal history can affect your eligibility for both public housing and, if a landlord conducts a background check, private housing. An arrest – even before anyone is found guilty – can often trigger eviction of you or your entire household from public or private housing. Federally Subsidized Housing (NYCHA & Section…

Know Your Rights: Employment & Criminal Convictions

Employment & Reentry 1. An employer said it wouldn’t hire me because it doesn’t hire anyone with a criminal record. Is that legal? No. Employers must consider each person as an individual. Refusing to hire all people with criminal records violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Law of 1964, the New York State Corrections…

Know Your Rights: Special Information for Non-Citizens

Non-citizens involved in the criminal justice system confront additional and severe civil consequences. Even if you have lived in the United States for a long time or if you have ties to the U.S. and family here, guilty pleas and convictions can lead to an immediate detention and the initiation of deportation (also called “removal”)…

Know Your Rights: What is Reentry & What are Collateral Consequences?

The term “reentry” is used by many advocates, service providers, policy-makers, and formerly incarcerated people to define what happens to people coming home from prison. More broadly, it describes a process of reintegration, rehabilitation, and restoration of rights that should begin when an individual is arrested. “Collateral consequences,” is a popular label for the legal,…

Cross-Sector Collaboration in Reentry: Building an Infrastructure for Change

By McGregor Smyth. Investment in an infrastructure for cross-sector collaboration is key to breaking the vicious cycle of poverty and crime. The criminal justice system is the institution with the single most pervasive impact on communities of poverty and of color. In those communities interaction with the police and courts, as well as incarceration, has…

Public Benefits and Child Support Arrears

By McGregor Smyth. Individuals who are released from prison or jail and who need financial assistance until they are able to get on their feet are likely to apply for aid both from Safety Net Assistance (“SNA”), the New York State public assistance program for adults who do not share a household with children, and…

Holistic is Not a Bad Word: A Criminal Defense Attorney’s Guide to Using Invisible Punishments as an Advocacy Strategy

By McGregor Smyth. The legal disabilities and social exclusion resulting from any adverse encounter with the criminal justice system erect nearly insurmountable barriers for criminal defendants, people with criminal records, those returning to their communities after incarceration, and their families. Recent scholarship has highlighted the draconian effects of these invisible punishments and has argued that…

Unprotected: HIV prison policy and the deadly politics of denial

By Robin Steinberg. HIV/AIDS is reaching epidemic proportions in U.S. prisons and in prison populations worldwide. The United States trails Canada, Australia, and much of Europe in responding to the crisis. What is more disturbing is that the United States does not respond to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in prisons because policy makers refuse to…

Bridging the Gap: A Practical Guide to Civil-Defender Collaboration

By McGregor Smyth. Vicky G. received a Section 8 Existing Housing Voucher for ten years. The prosecutor and local public housing authority now allege that over a six-year period she failed to report that her boyfriend was living in the apartment and that she underreported her income. She is charged with grand larceny and filing…

Cultural Revolution: Papers from the Executive Session on Public Defense

By Robin Steinberg and David Feige. Public defenders everywhere are beginning to reassess the most fundamental questions of what it means to provide effective representation for clients. Frustrated by the limitations traditionally imposed by government funders who seek to satisfy minimal constitutional requirements, public defenders are asking themselves if there is more they can do…