Case Studies»

NYCLU: #Lost In the System

If you’re poor and get arrested in New York state, you might wait weeks, months, sometimes even years to receive the legal representation that’s your constitutional right.

This MUST change. That’s why ART NOT WAR was so honored to work with the New York Civil Liberties Union on its campaign supporting the Justice Equality Act, urging Governor Cuomo to fix New York’s broken public defense system by providing adequate funding for public defenders and translators. The NYCLU asked us to come up with a two month plan to pressure Gov. Cuomo to finally commit to the bill–something he had declined to do for years.

First order of business? Name the bill and the campaign:  ART NOT WAR named the bill the Justice Equality Act, and started the hashtag #LostInTheSystem.  Next, a powerful video and message to help Gov. Cuomo understand that he held the power to make positive change.

The video we wrote, directed, and produced for our #LostInTheSystem campaign features narration by award-winning actor and activist Jeffrey Wright. It broke half a million views in 72 hours, reaching over 2.4 million New York state viewers online. Leading up to the video release, we collected true stories of New Yorkers who were #LostInTheSystem and turned them into shareable memes, reaching an additional 100,000 online.

The piece was strategically launched during the budget resolution process in Albany, when the Governor had the chance to pressure fellow lawmakers to pass new legislation. It worked. Just a week after our video was shared online and after thousands of New Yorkers, including Mark Ruffalo and Russell Simmons, tweeted the video at Governor Cuomo, New York State passed a bill committing to systemic reform of public defense services–establishing and upholding statewide standards for effective legal representation of New Yorkers charged with crimes who are unable to pay for a private attorney.