Legal Aid's Prisoners' Rights Project Celebrates 40 Years of Outstanding Advocacy
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2011
Steven Banks (left) Legal Aid's Attorney-in-Chief, and Fin Fogg (right) President, congratulate Maeve O'Connor, partner at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP; Jonathan Abady, partner at Emery Celi Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP; and William E. Hellerstein, founder of PRP and professor of law emeritus at Brooklyn Law School.

The Legal Aid Society's Prisoners' Rights Project celebrated its 40th anniversary with a special reception yesterday hosted by Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP. William E. Hellerstein, founder of PRP and professor of law emeritus at Brooklyn Law School, was honored at the ceremony.

Will headed the Society's Criminal Appeals Bureau for many years and during that time, there were many significant legal victories for prisoners. Also honored at the ceremony were Maeve O'Connor, a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, and Jonathan Abady, partner at Emery Celi Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, for their outstanding pro bono service to the Prisoners' Rights Project.

For these past 40 years, the Legal Aid Prisoners' Rights Project has carried out groundbreaking work to protect the legal rights of prisoners through law reform, class action litigation, and advice and representation in individual non-criminal matters. The Project's landmark victories to prevent unconstitutional conditions of confinement for clients have had a national impact, and the Project continues to be a national leader in prison reform advocacy. The Project's current priorities include preventing guard brutality, sexual abuse and other unsafe conditions; addressing the lack of mental health and medical care; and remedying the lack of educational programs for young prisoners. Virtually all persons incarcerated in New York City jails (13,000 individuals) and New York State prisons (57,000 individuals) – as well as prison staff – benefit from the class action cases which our Prisoners' Rights Project has litigated. While City funding supported the Project for most of its existence, the Society now must rely on private funds to support this critical work.