The Bronx Defenders is a public defender nonprofit that is radically transforming how low-income people in the Bronx are represented in the justice system and, in doing so, is transforming the system itself.
We have pioneered a ground-breaking, nationally recognized model of defense called holistic defense that achieves better outcomes for our clients. Each year, we defend 27,000 low-income Bronx residents in criminal, civil, child welfare, and immigration cases, and we reach thousands more through our community intake and outreach programs. But we don’t stop there. We take what we learn and launch innovative initiatives designed to bring about real and lasting change for the communities we serve.
Radically transforming how low-income people in the Bronx are represented in the justice system
An arrest and criminal charge alone can have a devastating impact on a person’s life. In New York State, more than 1 in 3 people arrested are never convicted of any crime or offense, yet they suffer dramatic consequences as a result of their arrest alone. This collateral damage, and the instability that results, can be far more devastating than any of the direct penalties that accompany the criminal conviction.
We understand and address the struggles that lead to justice involvement. We do more than ask about the circumstance of our clients’ cases — we spend time getting to know our clients as individuals. Our social workers and non-legal advocates learn about the challenges that clients face and help them tackle the issues that stand in the way of the futures they seek.
Every client is unique and so is our approach to their representation. Our advocates bring together different areas of expertise to find creative solutions and defenses. Whether a client decides to fight their case or seek an alternative resolution, their team stands behind them, making sure they get the justice they deserve.
Our teams go where our clients go, beyond the confines of a single case or courtroom. We know that once someone is in the justice system, it can be staggeringly hard to get out. An arrest for a drug charge can lead to a deportation case. A housing case can lead to a child welfare case. As a team, our criminal, civil, immigration and family defense attorneys — alongside social workers and non-lawyer advocates — go where the client goes, addressing the complex web of legal issues, cases, and consequences that can arise from justice involvement.
Transforming the system itself
We change the justice system through holistic defense — one person at a time. Our unique model of defense has been shown to lead to greater client satisfaction as well as improved case outcomes. Based on our annual client satisfaction surveys, we found that four out of five clients feel that their lawyer is fighting for them, and even more noted that they feel heard by their attorney. More than a quarter of our clients wanted us to focus on needs outside of their cases.
Our allegiance to our clients and our proximity to the justice system place us on the front lines in the fight for long-lasting change. We bear witness to the experiences of our clients, providing us with the knowledge to not only identify the problems but to spearhead solutions.