Appellate Advocates is a non-profit public defender organization formed in 1995. We represent individuals who have been convicted of crimes in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. Our clients, who are often serving very long prison terms, are isolated from the outside world, friends, and family. We advocate for these individuals in the appellate courts, striving to protect their rights to due process and fair treatment and ensuring that each client gets his or her day in court.
The Center for Appellate Litigation's Books Beyond Bars Program is the newest component of CAL’s holistic approach to client advocacy. Founded in November 2016, BBB’s mission is to provide reading materials to indigent incarcerated individuals and to advocate for policies that support prisoners’ access to information. BBB’s goal is to encourage literacy, education, self-empowerment, personal growth, and simply to provide a brief escape from the dehumanization of the criminal justice system.
Since its inception, Books Beyond Bars has sent thousands of books and magazines to indigent individuals in New York jails and prisons. Initially a program limited to CAL’s clients, BBB now sends reading materials to the clients of two other major public defense offices, covering individuals convicted in criminal courts in all five boroughs. BBB’s goal is to give our clients a diversion from the trying realities of their daily lives. We think books are liberating, and our clients agree. Feedback has been universally positive from participants, who constantly share with us how important the program is to them. Here is what one client wrote to us:
"I have to say that this book has me like a kid again … When I read the book it unlocks things inside of me, it’s like I’m being set free, like someone gave me back my liberty … I would never forget this nice thing you’ve done for me. And you might think to yourself, for a book? But it’s not just a book, it’s the path that this book is about to set me on."
BBB also aims to directly advocate for our clients on a practical level. We routinely purchase training manuals and study guides so our clients can learn skills or trades they are interested in and can leverage, upon re-entry, to advance their careers. We stock our shelves with high-school equivalency books, so our clients can prepare for re-entry into a society where, fairly or not, formal education is a prerequisite for so much.
We need your help! BBB is funded almost entirely by donations, and the program is only effective if we are able to get our clients the books they want to read. Please consider donating today!