We defend the Bronx.

Adolescent Defense Project

Adolescent Defense Project

The Issue
Young people in the South Bronx grow up in one of the most under-resourced and over-policed communities in the nation. The confluence of these complex conditions can trap youth in cycles of poverty as well as criminal and juvenile justice involvement. Ensuring meaningful justice for adolescent clients requires a deep understanding of adolescent criminal defense, youth mental health issues, and the serious educational factors that contribute to, and result from, a young person’s criminal case.

Our Approach
Our Adolescent Defense Project (ADP) is a specialized team of attorneys and social workers who provide comprehensive legal and social advocacy to youths aged 14-17 facing serious charges in Bronx Supreme and Bronx Family Courts. We work to secure the best outcome for the youths we represent and hold the legal system accountable while doing so. ADP was originally born in the Fall of 2012 to provide specialized representation to 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds being prosecuted as adults in the criminal court system. For the last five years, the Practice has navigated New York’s new RTA (Raise the Age) legislation to address the school-to-prison pipeline and to limit the long-term adverse effects of the legal system on the youths we represent.

Our team collaborates holistically and empathetically with the youth we represent to strengthen our advocacy in oral and written mitigation, coordination with detention facilities, the Administration of Children’s Services (ACS), the Department of Education (DOE), community and social service providers, and probation. ADP social workers are assigned to every youth’s case. Our ADP social workers use trauma-informed and strengths-based approaches to assess youths’ biopsychosocial and educational needs. Our social workers specialize in understanding youth mental health needs, substance use needs, the impact of trauma, community violence, and educational factors that can increase a young person’s likelihood of involvement in the legal system. Policy advocacy is also an integral part of the work we do since advocating for systematic change can have a lasting and effective impact on the youth we represent and the communities they live in.

Our Education Defense Project works closely with the Adolescent Defense Project. Our Education Defense Project is a liaison between the school and the youth’s legal team by collecting the necessary school documents that can support their defense. If a youth we represent is facing a school suspension for the same incident they were arrested for, our Education Project will represent them at the school suspension hearing. The Education Defense Project provides comprehensive support to our youths who are incarcerated, ensuring that they are enrolled in school (Passages Academy and East River Academy) and advocating for their rights to education and appropriate educational services despite incarceration.