NDS' mission is to make justice a reality for those farthest from its reach. NDS has grown to an organization with a budget of more than $30 million and 225 staff members, providing services in Harlem and Detroit. In 2022, NDS opened NDS Texas, with offices in San Antonio and Houston, to provide representation for individuals arrested through Operation Lone Star.
NDS was founded in Harlem in 1990, and has been providing holistic public defense to residents of Harlem and Northern Manhattan continuously since that time. For those who founded NDS, there was a belief that the existing public defense system was ineffective and needed to be disrupted in a way that would keep clients out of the criminal legal system permanently. Today, holistic defense is regarded as the gold standard of public defense.
Our work includes early case entry; multi-forum representation that reaches into all legal proceedings, including criminal, family, immigration, housing, employment, public benefits, and asset forfeiture; and continuing social services to clients and their families to address the issues that contributed to their involvement with the legal system or present the risk of future involve...ment.
In our communities, contact with the criminal, child welfare, immigration, housing, and broader civil systems threatens immediate and long-lasting destabilization for individuals and families who are already most vulnerable. Individuals who are exiting the criminal legal system are highly vulnerable to homelessness and unemployment—factors that significantly increase the risks of further system-involvement and recidivism.
We are dedicated to building trusting relationships with our clients, and we work together with our clients to develop case goals and strategies. Including our clients in the decision-making process in their cases improves our attorney-client relationships and ensures that we seek the outcomes that best help them.