May 9, 2012
36 Cooper Square
New York, New York 10003
Re: April 25, 2012 “Bail is Busted: How Jail Really Works”
To the Editors,
The National Lawyers Guild – New York City Chapter (“NLG-NYC”) welcomes The Village Voice’s coverage of the daily injustices of the NYC bail system, especially for poor and working class people of color. However, your article contains several factual errors and misconceptions about the work of the NLG-NYC and the invaluable contributions of the Legal Aid Society both in representing Occupy Wall Street arrestees and in the day-to-day efforts to represent indigent arrestees.
First, the NLG-NYC has been working collaboratively with the Legal Aid Society to represent Occupy demonstrators in criminal proceedings almost since Occupy began last fall. Attorneys from the Legal Aid Society have been working tirelessly on defending Occupy arrestees. While the NLG-NYC is proud of our own work, we are equally proud of our colleagues at the Legal Aid Society who have also represented Occupy arrestees while at the same time continuing their great work on behalf of the many hundreds of people arrested each day in New York City. They go above and beyond the call of duty every single day on behalf of all of their clients, most of whom are targets of a racist NYPD that engages in predatory policing against African-American, Latino, Asian, and Arab communities through its unconstitutional stop-and-frisk program. It was erroneously reported that indigent criminal defendants are not provided with legal counsel, when in fact, indigent persons are constitutionally guaranteed a right to counsel in most criminal cases and are indeed provided with counsel through the Legal Aid Society and other institutional providers.
Second, NLG-NYC attorneys, legal workers, law students, and jailhouse lawyers work in virtually every field of law, not only the mass defense of demonstrators. Our over 800 members work in day-to-day criminal defense (both in private practice and within institutional providers such as the Legal Aid Society), civil rights, disability rights, police misconduct, and family, housing, public benefits, immigration, military, environmental, and labor and employment law. We also engage in public education. The NLG-NYC’s Street Law program has facilitated dozens of “Know Your Rights” workshops to youth of color and provided to them information and resources on handling encounters with the police. Since the revelations last October by the Associated Press about the NYPD’s illegal domestic surveillance program against Muslim communities, the NLG-NYC’s Muslim Defense Project has conducted similar workshops in mosques and masjids throughout the city. NLG-NYC members are also fighting for the freedom of Black Liberation Movement political prisoners incarcerated for decades in New York prisons (including Sundiata Acoli, Jalil Muntaquim, Herman Bell, Robert Seth Hayes, and David Gilbert) and for the freedom of all political prisoners (including our organization’s national Jailhouse Lawyer Vice-President, Mumia Abu Jamal). As an organization dedicated to the principle that “human rights are more sacred than property interests,” the NLG-NYC stands in solidarity with and in support of all movements for racial, social, and economic justice in NYC and beyond.
National Lawyers Guild – New York City Chapter Executive Committee