This year’s conference includes a special focus on Racial Justice, Diversity, and Inclusion Programming. Workshops that will address this overarching theme include [RJ] after the session title.
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Friday, November 2 • 4:15pm - 5:45pm
From Criminal Defense to Civil Action, Pre-Entry to Re-Entry: Recognizing the Transformative Power of Embedded General Civil Legal Services in Public Defender Offices [RJ]

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Concentrated poverty and lack of access to fundamental civil needs—including homes, jobs, income, and education—are directly linked to and driving forces of criminal justice involvement (in addition to racism, classism, over policing and prosecution, and mass incarceration, to name a few). At the same time, stability in that access—preventing eviction, job loss, termination of benefits or other income—can be a powerful solution to the innumerable crushing consequences that individuals and families face when trapped in the criminal justice system. This session will focus on the Civil Action Practice at The Bronx Defenders—the largest and most comprehensive embedded general civil practice in a public defender office in the country. We will focus on our three main touchpoints for intervention: benefits access for community, team-based, integrated civil defense, and community reentry. We will relate the importance of attorney and non-attorney advocate collaboration and will discuss the value of having comprehensive civil legal services before, during, and after criminal justice involvement for impactful and transformational services. This will be presented as an innovation lab.


Wes Caines

Chief of Staff, The Bronx Defenders
Wesley Caines is a Bronx native of Caribbean heritage and the proud father of two children, Ashley and Gregory. A graduate of Bard College and New York Theological Seminary, his life’s journey has enriched him with a perspective on the importance of human connection and community... Read More →
avatar for Runa Rajagopal

Runa Rajagopal

Managing Director, Civil Action Practice, The Bronx Defenders
Runa Rajagopal, a litigator and social justice advocate for more than 14 years, is currently managing director of the Civil Action Practice at The Bronx Defenders (BXD). The Bronx Defenders is an innovative, progressive public defender that pioneered a model of legal representation... Read More →

Cecilia Riera

Benefits Advisor, The Bronx Defenders
Cecilia Riera is a benefits adviser with the Civil Action Practice of the Bronx Defenders. She works on issues that include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (food stamps), emergency assistance, and housing assistance, among other benefits. Before coming to the Bronx... Read More →

Mohammed Sheriff

Civil Legal Advocate, Supervisor, The Bronx Defenders
Mohamed Sheriff was the first civil legal advocate at The Bronx Defenders and, 15 years later, now supervises the legal advocates. He holds an associate degree in Paralegal studies (AAS) from Hostos Community College and a B.A. in International Government and Human Rights from John... Read More →

Friday November 2, 2018 4:15pm - 5:45pm CDT
Post Oak Westin Galleria, 3rd Level