The Bronx Defenders

The Bronx Defenders 2023-2024 Social Work Internship

Posted Date 2 months ago(1/23/2023 11:39 AM)
Job ID
Social Work


The Bronx Defenders (BxD)-- an innovative, progressive, holistic indigent defense office in the South Bronxseeks passionate social work students with a commitment to social justice to join our office as Social Work Interns 


The Bronx Defenders is a public defender non-profit that is radically transforming how low-income people in the Bronx are represented in the legal system, and, in doing so, is transforming the system itself. BxD seeks thoughtful, creative, energetic individuals with a strong commitment to social justice to join our dynamic and diverse staff. Our staff of over 400 includes interdisciplinary teams made up of criminal, civil, immigration, and family defense attorneys, as well as social workers, benefits specialists, legal advocates, parent advocates, investigators, and team administrators, who collaborate to provide holistic advocacy to address the causes and consequences of legal system involvement. Through this integrated team-based structure, we have developed a groundbreaking, nationally recognized model of representation called holistic defense that achieves better outcomes for the people we work with.  


Each year, we defend more than 20,000 low-income Bronx residents in criminal, civil, child welfare, and immigration cases, and reach thousands more through our community intake, youth mentoring, and outreach programs. Through impact litigation, policy advocacy, and community organizing, we push for systemic transformation at the local, state, and national level. We take what we learn from the people we represent and communities that we work with, and launch innovative initiatives designed to bring about real and lasting change.  


The Social Work Internship Program 


The Social Work Internship Program at The Bronx Defenders provides a unique opportunity for Social Work interns to receive extensive training in various legal disciplines and play an integral role in holistic defense. Social Work interns receive a comprehensive orientation with an introduction to all of our interdisciplinary practice areas and special projects; technical skill training and simulations; and anti-oppression workshops. Our Social Work interns gain invaluable client interaction experience, participate in intensive legal & Social Work skills training series, and have the opportunity to advocate for clients in legal settings. Social Work interns are supervised by MSW or LMSW SIFI certified Social Workers.  


Our Social Work Internship Program will begin in September 2023 and last the duration of the academic year through May 2024. 


  • Social Work Interns may choose to work in any one of the following practices:  


    • Criminal Defense Practice (Direct Representation) 
    • Family Defense Practice (Direct Representation) 
    • Immigration Practice (Direct Representation) 
    • Civil Action Practice (Direct Representation and Policy)
    • LGBTQ Defense Project (Direct Representation)


The Criminal Defense Practice   


The Criminal Defense Practice (CDP) at The Bronx Defenders consists of over 150 attorneys, investigators, social workers, practice associates, and administrators who provide comprehensive criminal defense representation to people in the Bronx facing police and criminal legal system involvement. Through a client-centered approach, our CDP legal teams strive to gain a deeper understanding of the circumstances and priorities of the people we represent. Armed with that understanding, they fight for desired outcomes by strategically raising personalized, persuasive arguments in mitigation, negotiations, and litigation.  


Family Defense Practice 


The Bronx Defenders’ Family Defense Practice (FDP) provides legal representation and social work support to parents charged with child abuse and neglect who are at risk of losing custody of their children. Our Family Defense Practice is at the forefront of a movement to provide holistic representation to parents in the Bronx while creating long-term solutions for the reunification and stability of families. Family Defense Practice Attorneys primarily litigate abuse and neglect cases, but occasionally appear in concurrent matters including custody, visitation, and termination of parental rights. 


Immigration Practice 


Twenty years ago, The Bronx Defenders developed the model of integrated criminal defense and immigration representation. Our Immigration attorneys and advocates work closely with people ensnared in the immigration legal system throughout the pendency of their cases in both Criminal and Family Court to avoid and mitigate negative immigration consequences that may arise from those cases. Our Immigration staff represent people in deportation proceedings in both detained and non-detained settings, provide affirmative immigration services, and pursue community-based litigation and advocacy aimed at transforming unforgiving anti-immigrant federal laws and policy. The Immigration Practice consists of approximately 60 staff members including attorneys, social workers, legal advocates, and administrators.  


Since 2013, our immigration attorneys have also served as assigned counsel at the Varick Street Immigration Court under the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), the first-ever universal representation project in immigration court. 


Civil Action Practice 


The Civil Action Practice (CAP) provides comprehensive legal services to the people we represent and their families by fully integrating civil representation with our criminal, immigration, and family defense practices. Our goal is to minimize the severe and often unforeseen fallout from legal system involvement and facilitate the seamless reintegration of the people we represent into their communities.   


Our Civil Action Practice attorneys and legal advocates represent community members in every forum in New York City – administrative, state, and federal – to address these problems, and provide comprehensive representation to assist people in overcoming civil legal barriers to housing, eviction, employment, and public benefits, as well as addressing instances of police misconduct, criminal record errors, and civil forfeiture. 


LGBTQ Defense Project


The LGBTQ Defense Project is a dedicated team of advocates representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in legal matters. Our advocates have specialized expertise fighting on behalf of members of the LGBTQ community. Every day, low-income LGBTQ community members are at high and disproportionate risk of system involvement and victims to injustices as they navigate those systems. The LGBTQ Defense Project works creatively, zealously, and compassionately to ensure meaningful access to justice and secure better outcomes for the people we represent. We provide the support needed to establish stability in the lives of the people we represent, challenge ill treatment of LGBTQ people within the legal system, and help people seek redress for state-backed violence and discrimination.


Strategizing with lawyers and other advocates, Social Workers are an integral part of in-court and community-based advocacy on behalf of the people we represent. Social Workers work to identify and address the issues that contribute to the ensnarement of the people we defend in the carceral systems they find themselves in, and the enmeshed consequences that arise out of their contact with the system. Armed with this knowledge, social workers participate in oral advocacy, author mitigation reports, and collaborate with treatment programs and social service providers to support the people we represent as they navigate their cases.


  • Collaborate with lawyers and other advocates on holistic defense teams to identify and achieve stated legal goals of the people we represent 
  • Advocate for the people we represent in court, incarceratory settings, and with community-based programs 
  • Inform the people we represent about the court process and assist them in overcoming barriers while navigating those carceral systems  
  • Interview and assess the people we represent to identify strengths, resources, and needs 
  • Provide supportive counseling, crisis intervention, and case management for the people we represent throughout the pendency of their legal cases 
  • Engage in oral advocacy with judges, prosecutors, and other court and program staff  
  • Prepare persuasive written work product, including mitigation reports, for judges and prosecutors incorporating content from psychosocial interviews, interviews with collateral sources, healthcare records, and social science research 
  • Assist with review of behavioral, medical, education, and other records 
  • Prepare the people we represent for court-related assessments, interpret external assessments, and liaise with external behavioral health experts   
  • Visit the people we represent in NYC jails, ICE detention facilities, court appearances, and community-based programs 
  • Provide re-entry services to the people we represent upon their release from detention/jail facilities
  • Maintain case records in Bronx Defenders’ informational case management system
  • Cultivate relationships with community programs and social service providers 
  • Participate in social work-specific trainings and attend anti-oppression workshops to raise cultural consciousness and competency  

 Additional CAP Specific Direct Representation and Policy Responsibilities:

  • Develop and maintain relationships with people directly impacted to dismantle and mitigating systemic macro-level harm
  • Amplify the experiences of the people we represent in local and national media as well as to city, state, and federal policymakers through research and client interviews
  • Collaborate with the policy counsels and advocates to draft articles, letters, editorials, white papers, and reports for public circulation
  • Collaborate with policy coalitions and community-based partners on civil social work initiatives
  • Coordinate and manage social work projects
  • Conduct needs assessments
  • Analyze data and policy
  • Develop feedback loops through surveys and other forums
  • Develop presentations and facilitate information sessions to external stakeholders


To be eligible, candidates must be enrolled in: 


  • Master’s in Social Work OR 
  • Bachelor’s in Social Work Program
  • Immigration Practice Applicants: fluency in Spanish is required as most client work will be conducted in the Spanish language


Candidates must demonstrate: 


  • Commitment to supporting the defense of people ensnared in carceral systems in the Bronx community 
  • For Family Defense Practice Candidates, commitment to directly defending people ensnared in the family regulation system against accusations of abuse and neglect 
  • For Criminal Defense Practice Candidates, commitment to directly defending people accused of crimes 
  • For Immigration Practice Candidates, commitment to directly defending non-citizens accused of crimes and at risk of removal and deportation  
  • For Civil Action Practice Candidates, commitment to advocating for the civil rights of people who’ve been accused of crimes and may be in danger of losing their housing, benefits, employment and/or property 
  • Experience working in and with racially, ethnically and socioeconomically marginalized communities  
  • Ability to effectively and respectfully communicate, collaborate and connect with people with various backgrounds, identities and experiences  
  • Ability to work well independently as well as collaboratively with an interdisciplinary team of lawyers and non-lawyers 
  • Commitment to fierce advocacy, and willingness to strategically challenge authority in defense of the people we represent 
  • Effective research, writing and verbal advocacy skills 
  • Knowledge of substance use disorder, domestic violence, parenting, and mental health systems 
  • Ability to establish and maintain collaborative relationships with external partners and service providers 
  • Strong analytical skills and capacity to employ non-legal resources in cases 
  • Ability to multitask, maintain order and meet deadlines in a fast-paced, high-stakes environment  
  • Meticulous attention to detail 
  • Ability to think critically and creatively in fast-paced settings, finding innovative solutions to unique obstacles 
  • Ability to receive constructive feedback, demonstrate introspection and shift behavior accordingly 
  • Ability to exercise excellent judgment, discretion, and confidentiality with sensitive matters 
  • Commitment to raising one’s cultural consciousness and challenging oppressive practices on an interpersonal and institutional level 
  • For applicants to the Immigration Practice, fluency in Spanish is required as most client work will be conducted in the Spanish language 


This is a hybrid position that will require in-person work and contact with staff and community members. 


The Bronx Defenders Social Work Internship will run from September 2023-May 2024.This is an unpaid internship, but if you wish to apply for funding through third-party fellowships, grants or universities, we are more than happy to support you in that effort. 


Note that you are welcome to apply to one or more of our practices, so long as you specify that in your cover letter. To apply, please click APPLY TO THIS JOB ONLINE and upload your resume and a cover letter in one document when prompted. If you would prefer to send in a video or audio statement in lieu of a cover letter, you may upload your resume as a document and separately upload a video or audio statement instead of a cover letter. Your cover letter or video/audio statement should share why you want to do this work at our office, some key lived and/or professional experiences that have prepared you for this position, and any additional information you would like for us to consider. Your cover letter may be up to one page if written or up to 3 minutes if an audio/video statement. This information allows us to understand your distinct perspective, experience and potential beyond the work history summarized on your resume. Please remember that you may submit a written cover letter or an audio/video statement, but not both, and applications without either will not be considered. The start date for this position is immediate or as soon as possible. 


Applications will be accepted through June 2nd, 2023 and decisions will be made on a rolling basis. Please contact Ismery Lora, Social Work Training Director, via email at with any questions regarding the position. 



The Bronx Defenders is an equal opportunity employer and is cultivating an anti-oppressive workplace that embraces staff with a diversity of backgrounds, identities and experiences. We acknowledge the ways in which systemic oppression and injustice can undermine access to professional opportunities and are committed to conducting hiring and promotion processes that are equitable and accessible to those commonly excluded from the workforce. We do not discriminate against and in fact specifically encourage applicants from marginalized communities to apply, including those who identify as Black, Indigenous, people of color, queer, transgender, gender non-conforming, disabled, neurodivergent and those directly impacted by criminal, civil, family and immigration legal systems. We value lived as well as professional experience and particularly welcome applications from the Bronx community that we work with.  


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