Prisoners' Legal Services of New York
To provide high quality, effective legal representation and assistance to indigent prisoners, to help them to secure their civil and human rights and to advocate for more humane prisons and for a more humane criminal justice system.
WHO WE ARE
Since its creation by the New York State Bar Association in 1976, Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York has provided necessary, high quality, effective and cost efficient legal services to inmates in New York State Correctional Facilities.
Without PLS, there would, in all likelihood, be more prison disturbances. PLS staff provide inmates with an important non-violent way to resolve disputes. PLS’ availability to inmates in New York’s 70 prisons reduces tensions and hostility by helping to resolve disputes quickly and helps to ensure a safer environment for prisoners and corrections staff alike. Most prisoners will be released. To insure public safety, the state must insure that prisoners will be returning to their communities having been treated humanely and having had access to quality mental health care and other programs while in prison. PLS works towards those goals and is a sound investment to help insure public safety.
PLS responded to approximately 10,000 inmate complaints this past year. PLS’ staff resolves most matters at the administrative level through negotiation. PLS actively discourages the filing of frivolous litigation and litigates only when necessary. There are no other legal services available to most inmates. Private attorneys rarely take inmate cases, except to a very limited extent, despite efforts by the courts, bar associations and PLS.
Due to PLS’ advocacy since 1976, virtually every aspect of prison life has been made more humane and more consistent with legal requirements. Areas of prison life affected include, access to improved mental health and medical care, access to administrative and court proceedings for mono-lingual Spanish speakers, the illiterate and functionally impaired, representation for women prisoners who are sexually abused by guards, improved visiting procedures, protection of religious freedom, insuring the privacy of strip searches, the reversal of improperly conducted disciplinary hearings and damages for the excessive use of force by guards