Robin Steinberg

Robin Steinberg is an American lawyer and social justice advocate[1] who is currently the chief executive officer of the Bail Project,[2] an organization she founded with her husband David Feige in 2007 which is modeled after The Bronx Freedom Fund.[3][4] Steinberg is the founder and former executive director of The Bronx Defenders, a community-based public defense office serving low-income New Yorkers in the Bronx since 1997,[5] and the director of Still She Rises, Tulsa,[6] "the first public defender office in the nation dedicated exclusively to the representation of mothers in the criminal justice system".[7] At The Bronx Defenders, Steinberg created The Center for Holistic Defense,[8] a program that trains public defender offices across the country to replicate The Bronx Defenders’ model of holistic defense.[9]

Steinberg has spoken at TED,[10] and taught at Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School,[11] the University of Virginia School of Law, Seton Hall University School of Law and UCLA School of Law.[12]

Early life and education

Steinberg was born and raised in New York City under a Jewish household. After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley in 1978[13] with a degree in Women’s Studies, Steinberg moved back to New York to attend the New York University School of Law to begin a career in women’s rights law. During her time at NYU Law, Steinberg enrolled in a clinic called the Women’s Prison Project.[14]


The Bail Project

In November 2017, with support from The Audacious Project, a TED philanthropic initiative,[15] Steinberg launched The Bail Project, a national nonprofit that provides free bail assistance and pretrial support to thousands of low-income people every year. According to Steinberg, the organization’s ultimate goal is “put ourselves out of business, having demonstrated that money and profit should have no role in criminal justice, and leaving behind a blueprint for how to support people during the pretrial process.”[16] The organization currently works with public defense offices and community partners in more than a dozen cities, posting bail for people in need and supporting them through court reminders, transportation assistance, and voluntary referrals to social services.[17] Assets of $22,547,817 and income of $24,783,751 were reported in 2018.[18]

In April 2019, a St. Louis man who received free bail assistance from The Bail Project was charged with fatally injuring his wife after being released pretrial.  In response to the incident, Steinberg said, "No one could have predicted this tragedy. It’s important to remember that had he been wealthy enough to afford his bail, or bonded out by a commercial bail bond agency, he would have been free pretrial as well. In times like this, we must come together for this family and keep sight of the need to transform the larger systems that create poverty, racism and violence, including the pretrial bail system." The Riverfront Times, a publication in St. Louis, wrote that The Bail Project had simply posted a bail amount that had been set by the local criminal justice system, adding, "If a friend or relative of Scott had posted the bail, no one would be blaming that person for the ensuing tragedy, nor should they. Ditto for a bail bondsman."[19]

Still She Rises

In January 2017, Steinberg launched Still She Rises, Tulsa, a project of The Bronx Defenders and the first public defender office in the country dedicated exclusively to the representation of women with children in the criminal justice system.[20] Oklahoma incarcerates a higher percentage of women than any other state and more than double the national average.[21] Still She Rises brings the holistic model of public defense pioneered by The Bronx Defenders to low-income women in the North Tulsa community.[22]

Center for Holistic Defense

In 2010, Steinberg received funding from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance[23] to begin the Center for Holistic Defense, the training and technical assistance arm of The Bronx Defenders. Each year for five years, the Center selected between three and six defender offices for intensive training, including site visits at defenders’ offices and The Bronx Defenders, on how to adopt holistic defense practices.[24] Steinberg has trained over 25 defender offices, ranging from large, statewide public defender systems such as the Wisconsin State Public Defender[25] to small, local groups like the Tribal Defenders for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in Montana.[26]

The Bronx Defenders

In 1997, Steinberg and a small group of advocates founded The Bronx Defenders, a community-based public defender office in the South Bronx. The Bronx Defenders now has a staff of over 300 attorneys, advocates, and social workers who represent more than 35,000 low-income [27] New Yorkers each year. By engaging in legislative advocacy, pursuing impact litigation, and offering training and technical assistance to other public defender organizations, The Bronx Defenders bridges the gap between a traditional direct service organization and a policy organization, seeking to ensure justice and dignity for criminal justice-involved people in the Bronx and beyond.


  1. ^ Gogolak, E. C. (2013-10-11). "New, Young Help for Poor in Infamous Bronx Courts". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-11-27.
  2. ^ Patrick, Robert. "Nonprofit will use $16 million bail fund to free people from American jails, including in St. Louis". Retrieved 2017-11-27.
  3. ^ "Bail "disrupters" aim to free 160,000 people from U.S. jails". NBC News. Retrieved 2017-11-27.
  4. ^ "The Problem with NYC's Bail Reform". The Marshall Project. Retrieved 2017-11-27.
  5. ^ "Our Mission and Story". The Bronx Defenders. Retrieved 2017-11-27.
  6. ^ "Our Team". Still She Rises, a Holistic Defense Project of The Bronx Defenders based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Retrieved 2017-11-27.
  7. ^ Vincent, Samantha. "Holistic legal aid program begins taking clients in north Tulsa". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2017-11-27.
  8. ^ "The Bronx Defenders Seek to Promote Holistic Defense | Center for Court Innovation". Retrieved 2017-11-27.
  9. ^ "The Center For Holistic Defense". The Bronx Defenders. Retrieved 2017-11-27.
  10. ^ "TED2018: The Age of Amazement | April 10–14, 2018 | Vancouver, BC, Canada". Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  11. ^ "Robin Steinberg". Columbia Law School. Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  12. ^ "Trailblazing Advocate Robin Steinberg Joins UCLA Law Criminal Justice Program". Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  13. ^ "Biography Page". Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  14. ^ "Alumnus/Alumna of the Month | NYU School of Law". Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  15. ^ "Announcing ... The Audacious Project". Retrieved 2019-11-18.
  16. ^ "Chicago Bar Association - The Future is Now 2.019: Reforming the Cash Bail System with Robin Steinberg and the Bail Project". 19 June 2019. Retrieved 2019-11-18.
  17. ^ "Our Approach". The Bail Project. Retrieved 2019-11-18.
  18. ^ "Bail Project Inc. | Charity Navigator Profile". Charity Navigator. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
  19. ^ Hartmann, Ray. "Don't Blame the Bail Project for Marcia Johnson's Murder". Riverfront Times. Retrieved 2019-11-18.
  20. ^ Fisher, Rich. "Still She Rises: Bringing a "Holistic Defense" Approach to Assisting the Mothers of North Tulsa". Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  21. ^ Winkler, Elizabeth (2018-01-02). "Why Oklahoma Has the Most Women Per Capita in Prison". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  22. ^ World, Samantha Vicent Tulsa. "Holistic legal aid program Still She Rises begins taking clients in north Tulsa". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  23. ^ Drucker, Ernest (2018-02-20). Decarcerating America: From Mass Punishment to Public Health. The New Press. ISBN 9781620972793.
  24. ^ "The Center For Holistic Defense". The Bronx Defenders. Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  25. ^ "Public Defender Offices Eligible for Free Technical Assistance". The Bronx Defenders. Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  26. ^ "The Center for Holistic Defense Announces Technical Assistance Winners". The Bronx Defenders. Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  27. ^ "The Bronx Defenders". The Bronx Defenders. Retrieved 2018-04-11.