Brooklyn Defenders Services appoints John Yates as Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

May 26, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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Brooklyn Defenders Services (BDS) welcomed a new force in its mission to drive diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) within the organization. John Yates, a seasoned community engagement and policy expert, has joined BDS as the new Managing Director of DEIB.

Yates, a first-generation, queer, mixed-race leader, brings with him a rich experience of over ten years in policy, advocacy, and DEIB. Prior to joining BDS, Yates served as the Director of Racial Equity and Social Justice at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. In this role, he was instrumental in strategizing to minimize health disparities during the COVID-19 pandemic among the city’s residents.

As a DEIB director at BDS, Yates will focus on driving anti-racism and equity goals, pushing for transformative changes within the organization. He is a Sociology graduate from DePauw University, holds an MBA from Metropolitan College of New York, and is currently a J.D. candidate at the CUNY School of Law.

In other efforts to uplift families and communities, BDS is advocating for changes to the family regulation system, known as the “child welfare system.” 

BDS, joining hands with parents and young people impacted by the system, is advocating for legislative measures that support and empower families instead of tearing them apart. These proposed bills include The Family Miranda Rights Act, The Anti-Harassment in Reporting Act, Informed Consent for Drug Testing and Screening Act, and The Preserving Family Bonds Act.

Nila Natarajan, Supervising Attorney & Policy Counsel with our Family Defense Practice, speaks at the Family Advocacy Day in Albany on May 16th.

Moreover, BDS’s Samuel Hamilton spoke out against Mayor Adams’ proposal to cut critical programs provided by nonprofits in New York City jails during the NYC Council budget hearing on the Department of Correction.

“Mayor Adams’ decision to cut classes, reentry services, and other supportive programming offered by these providers is misguided and must be reversed,” Hamilton said. “These crucial programs offer people access to therapy, educational and job training classes, and other important services during incarceration, and help people find employment, housing and maintain connections with resources after their release.”

BDS also voiced its concern over the rollback of state’s bail laws, stating that such a move “erodes the presumption of innocence” and jeopardizes employment, housing, education, access to critical services, and bonds with families and communities for incarcerated individuals. The organization remains committed to working with lawmakers to pass legislation promoting justice, fairness, and community resource provision.

In addition, BDS criticized the recently released report by the NYC Department of Investigation regarding the wrongful recording of privileged phone calls between incarcerated New Yorkers and their attorneys, deeming it inadequate.

Elizabeth Daniel Vasquez, Director of Brooklyn Defenders’ Science and Surveillance Project, testified before the NYC Council about the harms of biometric identification technologies in public housing, public transit, public benefits programs, and various policing systems.


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