Read NDS Executive Director and NACDL Immediate Past President Rick Jones’ column on The Power of Public Defense in The Champion.
“We started NDS in 1990 with the client in mind: the whole client. Holistic defense assembles teams of lawyers by integrating practice areas and encouraging collaboration. A criminal defense attorney sits next to a family law attorney and across from an immigration attorney. When a client faces a criminal charge, his or her NDS attorney is trained to recognize the implications of the criminal case and refer the client to their immigration, family or housing coworker. The consequences of a conviction can extend far beyond the prison walls, making it difficult or impossible for someone with a record to obtain public assistance, subsidized housing or employment. Tragically, a criminal case can terminate parental rights, tearing a family apart. It can change a client’s immigration status. The team defense model at NDS insures that the best outcome for clients — in every part of their lives — is a priority.
“What we do works. Taking a snapshot from one month in 2016, 29 clients were saved from eviction when their NDS criminal or family law attorney referred them to an NDS housing attorney. Our model works not just for our clients, but for the city as well. With average monthly housing assistance for a family of four living on the street costing just over $3,000 and a storage allowance of over $200, those 29 referrals saved New York City nearly $100,000 in one month alone. Not to mention the untold costs saved by keeping families together and intact.
“This model has led to marked success in case dispositions. In 2016, the NDS rate for total cases disposed by dismissal or ACD exceeded 45 percent. Over time, our model has won political support. The NDS story is one not just of comprehensive public defense, but also one of fiscal responsibility. It costs New York City an average of $742 per day to house a single inmate. With an average pretrial length of stay of 54 days, keeping one client out of pretrial detention saves the city more than $40,000.”