About Neighborhood Defender Service:
Neighborhood Defender Service’s mission is informed by anti-racism. We secure clients’ rights and ease their pain in the midst of a million daily indignities, violence and even death. We grew out of Harlem and the experience of people of color in our neighborhood. Our work responds to their needs, and the needs of our clients in Detroit. Every program we run is designed to confront and fight systemic inequality. For 30 years we have insisted that Black lives do indeed matter. Our decades in the courtrooms and in the community aligns with the calls coming from the streets. We are an ally of, and advisor to, the movements rising in our communities, and are leading the efforts toward long-term structural solutions.
For decades, NDS has pursued a comprehensive national advocacy platform to disrupt the stark racial and economic disparities endemic to our legal system. From marijuana decriminalization to Raise the Age to re-entry issues, we have rallied against the overcriminalization and mass incarceration of Black and Brown communities. Our pioneering efforts have spurred a movement to challenge a criminal conviction’s civil collateral consequences, including housing, deportation consequences, and family separation, and to rethink the right to counsel in both criminal and civil proceedings around the world. Today, NDS is working to divest our cities from badge and gun safety solutions, end the racist removal of children from their families, and eliminate housing insecurity in the wake of COVID-19.
In contrast to a traditional public defense practice, NDS clients have an entire team fighting on their behalf, including criminal and civil attorneys, family defense attorneys, advocates, social workers, administrators, investigators, paralegals, law school and social work interns, and pro bono attorneys. NDS deploys all of these resources on behalf of its clients, addressing the underlying issues that bring them into contact with the criminal legal system. This approach allows support to extend well beyond the courtroom, with robust social services meant to protect clients from the damages of criminal legal proceedings. When clients face consequences with employment, schooling, immigration or in family or housing court, NDS works alongside them to resolve these issues.