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Rebecca Kinsella is very excited to have joined BDS’ Brooklyn Adolescent Representation Team in June of 2015.

Rebecca graduated from Columbia University School of Social Work in May 2013 with a Master of Science in Social Work. It was during this time that Rebecca became passionate about working with individuals in the justice system. While in graduate school, Rebecca was an intern at the Mental Health Project of the Urban Justice Center. At the Mental Health Project, she coordinated a community advocacy course for individuals with mental illness that provided education around advocacy strategies both on an individual and systems level. Following graduate school, Rebecca worked as a Social Worker with the Center for Court Innovation, providing adolescents in the criminal justice system with support and advocacy as they navigated Brooklyn criminal court.

Prior to graduate school, Rebecca worked as a Program Manager in digital advertising, coordinating projects for brands such as JP Morgan Chase. Rebecca holds a Bachelors in Journalism with an emphasis in Strategic Communications from the University of Missouri.

While a Texas native, Rebecca is proud to call New York home. She likes to spend her free time enjoying all the outdoor activities New York City has to offer.



What if Michael Brown’s story had ended differently?

A teenager. A misdemeanor. A cop. But then, instead of bullets, what if Mr. Brown had received a granola bar, a “safe space” to discuss concepts like choice, and an invitation to make a collage as part of a deal to erase the arrest from his record?

In Mr. Brown’s hometown of Ferguson, Mo., and beyond, American teenagers who are born poor and dark are routinely arrested for things that others get away with. Sometimes, guns fire and lives disappear. More often, the encounter can risk destroying a life more slowly. But in Brooklyn — which was infamous for crime before becoming known for artisanal whiskey — an experiment is testing whether these early police encounters can be reinvented as an opportunity: to reach out to troubled youth, get them help and bend their perception of the law.

Terrell, 17, was an apt candidate for bending. A high school graduate bound for community college, he had already endured two rounds of “stop-and-frisk,” a pre-emptive police tactic that a judge eventually found unconstitutional. Then this summer he was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor.

When he arrived for his court date, his public defender informed him of a new program for 16- and 17-year-old defendants: Instead of pleading guilty, performing community service, having a criminal record and being supervised for up to a year by probation officers, he could participate in something called Young New Yorkers that afternoon. If he did, his case would be dismissed and sealed — erased from public records. (The Times agreed not to publish his last name and details of his arrest in exchange for his cooperation.)

Surprised, Terrell took the deal.

The United States, which accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its prisoners, is in the midst of a great rethinking of its criminal justice system, including changes in sentencing laws, more lenient marijuana policies and so-called restorative justice efforts.

The Brooklyn program is part of these changes. It is rooted in the belief that the criminal justice system often takes decent but mildly troubled young people and, instead of reforming them, turns an ephemeral circumstance — a crime — into an enduring identity: criminal.

“Theoretically, it’s supposed to be correctional,” said Judge George A. Grasso, who supervises the Brooklyn program. “But most people going through, it’s not correcting.”

Judge Grasso calls the program “collaborative justice.” Various parties — the judge, prosecutors, public defenders, probation officers, even the city’s Department of Education — work together to decide which program each defendant should enter (Young New Yorkers is one of a handful).  Read More


Jacob McClain Lipsky is a resident of Brooklyn. He grew up in the Boston, Massachusetts area and graduated from Brookline High School in 1988. He received a B.A. in political science from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. In 2006, Mr. Lipsky received his juris doctorate from the Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, Massachusetts. Mr. Lipsky joined Brooklyn Defender Services in the fall of 2006.

While attending Northeastern School of Law, Mr. Lipsky participated in the Prisoners’ Rights clinic where he successfully represented a client serving a 2nd degree life sentence for murder at his first parole hearing. Mr. Lipsky also participated in the Criminal Advocacy Clinic and was active in the Black Law Students Association, Kemet Chapter of Northeastern School of Law. He also held internships with Federal Magistrate Judge the Honorable Judge Ronald Ellis, of the Second Circuit; National Public Radio in Washington D.C.; the Criminal Defense Division of The Legal Aid Society of New York City, Queens Office; and the Miami-Dade Office of the Public Defender.



Every year more than 300,000 people are arrested in New York City and roughly 100,000 people cycle through the city jail system at a cost to the taxpayer of $167,731 per incarcerated person per year. Most people held on Rikers Island and other borough specific facilities — 75 percent — are awaiting the disposition of their cases and are, thus by law, innocent.  More