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The Bronx Defenders:
Truth, Justice and Equality for All

C. B. Morley

Bronx Times

January 25, 2001

"... The Defenders are not only about the courtroom. The organization's staff sees its clients as individuals with individual needs."

Since our inception, we have been working with neighborhood high school youth through our community outreach efforts. Members of our staff regularly visit Bronx schools to discuss our work and the criminal justice system, including an annual presentation to students at Rosewood High School, which operates within the Rose M. Singer Detention Center for women and adolescent girls on Rikers Island. The Bronx Defenders also works regularly with a number of community organizations that educate children about possible career paths, including Morrisania 10456 and A Better Bronx For Youth. Our newest programs mark an enhanced commitment to these outreach efforts to help not only our clients, but also Bronx youth to grow as informed and active participants of their communities.

The Bronx Defenders has been at the forefront of community based lawyering since its creation. Through our ties to social service providers throughout the Bronx, and our work in the schools, The Bronx Defenders is able to better understand and respond to our clients' communities. Beyond this, The Bronx Defenders has proven itself exceptionally capable of addressing the needs of the courthouse community -- from representing witnesses at the request of judges, to creating an in-house program in collaboration with the Bronx District Attorney's office designed to address the needs of a particular client population.

"Once a Bronx Defender client, always a Bronx Defender client." Any client is welcome in the office, whether or not they have an open case. In fact, there are clients we continue to help even though they have not had an open case in the Bronx for nearly three years. Beyond that, we welcome any indigent member of the Bronx community who may need legal advice or pre-arrest representation. We are the only public defender office in Bronx County that will provide pre-arrest representation such as accompanying a client to a lineup, invoking Fifth Amendment rights with the police and prosecutors on behalf of clients and, where appropriate, arranging for a safe and voluntary surrender to the police when probable cause or an arrest warrant exists.

By aggressively seeking funding from outside sources, The Bronx Defenders has managed to fund a Civil Action Project that helps clients protect themselves from police misconduct, stave off deportation, and avoid unwarranted eviction. Through our robust internship programs for high school, college, social work and law school students, The Bronx Defenders carries out client satisfaction surveys, community outreach, and special litigation projects. By creatively thinking about sentencing, The Bronx Defenders has created a unique alternative sentencing program -- open to everyone -- and endorsed by the District Attorney and the judiciary.

Working in collaboration with community-based organizations and nearly a dozen local schools, The Bronx Defenders has redefined what it means to be a public defender -- both to the clients and to the communities they come from. Things as simple as opening our space to neighborhood organizations, teaching high-school students debate skills, organizing street fairs, or tutoring neighborhood kids for the S.A.T's make the Bronx Defender's much more than a traditional public defender. Instead, The Bronx Defenders is a unique resource for the community -- a place to go for help in getting out of trouble, getting away from addiction, or even getting into college.

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