Laura Vest

Social Worker, Criminal Defense Practice

Tel (718) 254-0700 x126

Laura worked in social justice for several years before formalizing her passion for justice issues by becoming a professional Social Worker. Before receiving her Masters in Social Work at Columbia University in 2016, Laura worked in state and national electoral politics, foster care prevention, and with domestic and global feminist causes. Laura holds a M.S.W. from Columbia University and a B.S. in Journalism from K.U., with specializations in women’s and communication studies. At Columbia, Laura focused her studies on social justice, vicarious trauma and anti-oppressive/anti-racist Social Work. She led social justice workshops and trainings at the school and volunteered at the Gay Health Advocacy Project, working with students at risk for HIV and supporting students with sexual and reproductive health questions. While in Social Work school, Laura utilized the two years of language and culture training she received as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer (2012) to intern with survivors of violence at Sauti Yetu Center for African Women and Families. At Sauti Yetu, Laura and a fellow LMSW created and facilitated a trauma-informed and culturally-sensitive trilingual women’s group for survivors of violence.

Laura was also part of the 2016 Columbia University cohort who traveled to Santiago, Chile, to share ideas about doing Social Work in their respective countries. While visiting Chile, Laura and her classmates witnessed first-hand how truth and reconciliation can be possible in a country with a history of state oppression. While receiving her B.S. in Journalism, Laura discovered a passion for advocacy, intersectional feminist politics and writing. She worked on the local university newspaper and was twice-recognized nationally for that work. Today at BDS, Laura utilizes the skills she developed in Journalism School writing mitigation and research reports for clients who are criminal justice-involved. She is inspired by the work of Bryan Stevenson, a tireless advocate for people serving life sentences, who believes that we must challenge labels such as “criminal” because of the historical makeup of the justice system and because of a belief that people are more than stigmatized labels. Laura completed her second-year Social Work internship at BDS, and is thrilled to continue that work as a full-time Forensic Social Worker at Brooklyn Defender Services. Laura enjoys compiling mitigation reports that expose the intersectional social justice issues that plague the criminal justice system, including disparities in race, poverty, homelessness, experience with trauma, mental illness, and substance use. Additionally, Laura is currently working alongside anti-oppressive Social Work professors as a Teaching Associate at Columbia University in topics such as Racial Identity Development and Foundations of Social Work Practice. She is a resident of Brooklyn.