Bronx Defenders

aka The Bronx Defenders   |   Bronx, NY   |


Our mission entails both direct service and systemic change. Our direct service mission is to serve residents of the Bronx involved in the criminal justice and family court systems by addressing the root causes of their involvement with the justice system, engaging our Holistic Defense model that teams attorneys with social workers to guide poor New Yorkers through times of crisis. Our Center for Holistic Defense and program are engaged in promoting best practices in public indigent defense by providing technical assistance, continuing education and by engaging in policy discussions.

Ruling year info


Principal Officer

Ms. Robin Steinberg

Main address

360 East 161st Street

Bronx, NY 10451 USA

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NTEE code info

Legal Services (I80)

Civil Rights, Social Action, and Advocacy N.E.C. (R99)

Crime Prevention N.E.C. (I20)

IRS filing requirement

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Criminal Defense

Criminal Defense: Whether
grappling with addiction, mental illness, or family violence, our clients
receive effective advocacy in their criminal case and compassionate, supportive

Population(s) Served

Family Defense: Family advocates work with parents to get them the services to keep their families together. We were selected to expand this model and become the first institutional provider of parent representation in Bronx Family Court.

Population(s) Served

Civil Action Practice: The civil
lawyers prevent our clients from losing basic human rights and mitigate the
devastating collateral consequences of criminal justice involvement.

Population(s) Served

The Bronx Defenders is pleased to announce the launch of The
Center for Holistic Defense in 2010, a resource center for public defender offices
seeking to adopt a more holistic model of representation. With funding from the
U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, and in collaboration
with The Center for Court Innovation and John Jay College of Criminal Justice,
the Center will meet a vast and unmet need in the criminal justice field by
supporting the provision of holistic defender to indigent clients.

The Center promises to be a unique resource for public defender
offices, individual practitioners, policymakers and other stakeholders. The
Center hopes to provide public defenders with more than just the theory
underlying Holistic Defense but also with the practical, nuts-and-bolts support
they need to translate this theory into practice.

Population(s) Served An innovative
clearinghouse on the consequences of criminal proceedings, Reentry Net is an
online resource center, trainings, and hotline support, giving advocates the
tools to address undue consequences of incarceration.

Population(s) Served

We pursue impact litigation on issues critical to our clients and the Bronx community. We take on cases that have an impact on systemic issues and create meaningful social change by setting legal precedents that help make the Bronx a safer and more just place for everyone.

Population(s) Served

Our Policy & Community Organizing team works closely with staff, clients, and their families to fight for justice and fairness in the communities we serve. We build community through annual events like our Summer Community Block Party, Youth Justice Summit, and Thanksgiving Dinner. And we take a holistic approach to policy reform, using a broad range of strategies including grassroots organizing, coalition building, legislation advocacy, and research.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

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Hodson Award 2011

American Bar Association

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

In the Bronx and beyond, The Bronx Defenders promotes justice in low-income communities by keeping people united with their families. Our goal at The Bronx Defenders is two part : 1) To transform the way in which public defense is practiced to most effectively respond to the needs of indigent clients and empower individual, families, and communities impacted by involvement in the justice systems by employing the innovative and cutting-edge model of representation -- Holistic Defense -- that The Bronx Defenders has pioneered, and 2) To call attention to the widespread policing and incarceration practices that unfairly target low-income and minority populations both in the Bronx where our office is located and in other areas around the country where we train other public defenders offices in our model of holistic defense.

To achieve these goals we represent clients in the most under-served and under-resourced neighborhoods in New York City – the South Bronx, and we train public defender offices in other areas across the country with similarly vulnerable client populations. We also bring our work outside of the court room, to respond to community concerns, to mobilize community groups to know and advocate for their rights, to advocate for meaningful policy change with city and state officials, and to share our replicable model of client-centered and empowering holistic defense within the broader world of criminal justice and indigent defense across New York and the United States.

The Bronx Defenders’ unique model of interdisciplinary and holistic advocacy was created to bridge the gaps among legal, social, and community services to address the problems that drive many of our clients into the criminal justice and family court systems. The Bronx Defenders was founded as a community-based and community-responsive organization, and we continue to guide our practices and interventions based on community needs, perceptions, and feedback. Our unique service model allows us to intervene early when a client’s ability to meet her basic needs is jeopardized and to address problems before they become crises. Using a “team-based” model, our attorneys and advocates work to provide holistic and integrated representation to our clients and their families and to find comprehensive solutions to the obstacles they face.

The Bronx Defenders has been present in the South Bronx for over 17 years, and has established a strong bond with our clients and the Bronx community that we serve, as well as a positive working partnership with the City of New York as an institutional provider of indigent defense. These relationships are key in allowing us to not only address the needs of our clients and their families and communities, but to also register as an influential voice in policy discussions that have direct impact on our long-term goals.

The Bronx Defenders’ strong management and leadership structures also enhance our ability to respond to client and community needs and to achieve organizational goals. The Bronx Defenders maintains tiers of leadership teams that meet regularly to ensure that various levels of program implementation are thoroughly assessed and any needed adjustments are made in order to ensure results are tracked, outcomes are achieved, and impact is sustained. These tiers include:
• The Executive Management Team, which meets monthly. This group reflects the Managing Directors of each practice area in the office, the Executive Director, the Deputy Director, the Director of Evaluation and Technology, and the Chief Operating Officer. Each Managing Director reports back to the group at these meetings about important updates in each practice area, programmatic concerns and successes, upcoming events and fundraising/resource needs.
• Within The Bronx Defenders there are seven “practice areas”. These groups each reflect a different, but equally vital and specialized area of advocacy (criminal defense practice, family defense practice, social work, civil action practice, investigations, parent advocacy, and organizing). These practice groups meet regularly to discuss trends in their practice, share successes and failures in advocacy, provide updates on the changing legal horizons in the particular practice areas, and discuss ways to improve their practice and develop innovative solutions to problems they encounter.
• Finally, the office is internally structured to support distinct interdisciplinary teams who are guided by a Team Leader. Each team has representatives from various advocacy areas in which we work (e.g. immigration, family defense, criminal defense, civil action, social work, investigations, parent advocacy, and civil legal advocacy). These teams are the “legal homes” for our clients where they can access support, representation, and advocacy from staff with a range of disciplines, ensuring that our clients receive the services that meet their needs. Team members work collaboratively, sit in the same physical space to enhance communication and collaboration, and meet regularly to discuss clients, conduct case reviews, and discuss office wide issues.

Under the leadership of our Director of Evaluation and Technology, who works with the Managing Attorneys, Executive Director and Director of Policy & Community Organizing, The Bronx Defenders is committed to making sure that we are capturing the data we need to evaluate our work and achieve the best results in order to make meaningful strides towards achieving our organization goals. The outcome of such tracking and evaluation allows us to assess the areas that clients need more support and services and to create resources to respond to those needs. By responding directly to client needs, we are better able to serve our clients and achieve better outcomes.

The Bronx Defenders considers case outcomes and “life outcomes” when assessing the effectiveness of the Holistic Defense model and so far, the results are very positive. We have represented over 250,000 New Yorkers since our founding in 1997, helping them to access justice. In our Family Defense Practice we have served more than 6,000 families and 12,600 children since our practice’s founding, and, as the institutional provider of Family Defense in the Bronx, we have represented parents in 85% of abuse and neglect cases in the Bronx Family Court system. Among our clients with criminal cases, two-thirds of clients who are convicted of crimes are sentenced to non-incarceratory programs, and our clients serve on average 20% less jail time.

Over the past year (April 2013 to March 2014) our Civil Action Practice provided legal services to 4,871 clients on 4,830 matters, kept families housed by preventing eviction of 263 families, benefiting more than 699 household members and creating taxpayer savings of over $8,854 in shelter costs; and preserved unity of 243 families by preventing deportation of a parent or child, affecting more than 395 family members, and obtained legal immigration status for 76 other families.

Most recently, in 2014, The Bronx Defenders has also created the first ever client-centered holistic case management, which integrates all client data across practice areas into one comprehensive and holistic database. Recognizing the complex and interconnected nature of our holistic legal services, we identified a need for our information technology systems to be restructured to reflect our evolving and adapting practice. In this new system, a client has one profile, which allows staff from different programs and disciplines to view all updates in real time and to better collaborate to deliver the most comprehensive client services. The benefit of this new a fully integrated holistic legal case management system is improved progressive data sharing between program areas, which allow us to expand and enhance the services we provide our clients. This provides The Bronx Defenders with a renewed capacity to expand holistic services with greater access to evaluate and report on the quality of the client services.


Bronx Defenders

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Bronx Defenders

Board of directors
as of 06/01/2016
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Earl Ward

Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP

Robin Steinberg

The Bronx Defenders

Abbe Smith

Professor, Georgetown University School of Law

Earl Ward

Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP

Breon Peace

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP

Catherine Amirfar

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

Ron Minkoff

Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz PC

Ravi Suria

Valmiki Capital Management

Jay Cohen

Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP

Jon Oram

Proskauer Rose LLP

Thomas Palatucci

The Bronx Defenders

P. Benjamin Duke

Covington & Burling LLP

Estela Diaz

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP