Projects, Units & Initiatives

Community Intake

As part of our long-standing partnership with the Robin Hood Foundation, LAS has typically regularly conducted on-site legal clinics for individuals at community-based organizations (CBOs), colleges in the City University of New York (CUNY) network, and at Rikers Island.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, in the interests of the health and safety of all involved, LAS has been conducting intake remotely, making use of technology to interview clients and obtain copies of both necessary documents and signatures as needed. These adaptations of our community intake allows us to continue provide civil legal assistance to individuals and families through organizations where they are receiving other services, and to assist students with legal issues that could inhibit them from completing post-secondary education. With a wide range of civil legal expertise, our staff consult and represent clients in a broad range of legal matters, such as non-payment and holdover cases, SSI/SSD claim denials or terminations, obtaining or increasing child support, and adjustments of status or citizenship.

LAS’ Rikers Re-Entry Project (the Project) is also an integral part of our community-based intake programs, giving us the unrivaled ability to facilitate individuals’ successful reentry and reintegration into society. With extensive institutional knowledge of the criminal justice system, coupled with our expertise in civil law, the Project ensures that clients waiting to be released from Rikers Island can access comprehensive legal assistance.

Our Impact

The Project staff recently assisted Ms. A, a transgender woman and survivor of domestic violence. Our staff worked closely with Ms. A’s criminal defense attorney to successfully persuade the court that she should only be sentenced to the minimum sentence given the role her significant history of domestic violence played in her situation. Ms. A was eventually sentenced to between a one-and-a-half to three-year sentence under the jurisdiction of NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) prison system upstate. Our focus then turned to trying to ensure that Ms. A would be housed as a woman in a women’s facility – Ms. A had spent over a year in a women’s jail and worked in the cafeteria, the intake room, and as a peer suicide prevention coordinator to great success. We secured multiple medical releases showing Ms. A’s past history of identifying as a female, collected disciplinary records, and arranged statements in support of Ms. A from NYC Department of Corrections (DOC) volunteers and others as to her character and her positive response to the female DOC prison environment. We used these materials to create an advocacy letter for the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Assistant Commissioner requesting that she be considered for female placement.

As a result of our advocacy, Ms. A was eventually granted placement at a women’s prison – allowing her to be housed with other women, continue to be treated as a woman, and ensuring she was able to access gender-specific programming. The programming and reentry resources offered will allow Ms. A to connect with meaningful support for housing, medical care, and employment as part of a comprehensive reentry plan. In the past four years, only seven transgender individuals have been housed according to lived gender identity by DOCCS, establishing this case as a major win for LAS and Ms. A. Ultimately, our advocacy in this case ensures that Ms. A will be able to serve the remaining portion of her sentence at less risk of experiencing significant physical and mental harm while also actively facilitating Ms. A’s eventual successful reentry to the community.

Partnerships

The Rikers Reentry Project has developed a relationship with the Fedcap Women’s Project to provide support to women who have experienced serious trauma, including sexual assault and abuse, human trafficking, and domestic violence. This partnership allows us to offer specialized legal assistance to clients who often require immediate assistance; in one such case, we helped a client referred from the Women’s Project to obtain a FHEPS housing voucher after two different providers told her she was ineligible. She was able to find an apartment with her FHEPS subsidy after her release and was able to avoid homelessness.