For 40 Years, the Prisoners' Rights Project Has Advocated for the Rights of Prisoners Through Ground-Breaking Litigation and Law Reform

Forty years ago today, the nation witnessed the tragic events at Attica. The Legal Aid Society's Prisoners' Rights Project opened for business that same week to address the deplorable conditions in the State's prisons and in the City's jails. For these past forty 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.

In the Fall, The Legal Aid Society will be holding a special reception for funders, supporters, and Project alumni to mark the extraordinary work of the Prisoners' Rights Project during these past four decades.