You’ve been arrested and the police took your wallet, cell phone, and keys. When you’re released, you need two pieces of I.D. to get your stuff back—but the police have your wallet. You don’t have anyone’s phone number or the keys to your home. What do you do?

For most of the 350,000 people arrested in New York City every year, getting arrested is just the beginning of a long and difficult process. Getting property back depends on how it was categorized by the police at the time of arrest, and each category requires a different set of steps, interactions with multiple players in law enforcement, and tight deadlines. The process is frustrating, drawn-out, and confusing, causing many people to give up on getting their property back. To make it all worse, there are no existing written guides helping people through this process.

CUP collaborated with The Bronx Defenders and designers L + L to create Get It Back!, a guide that helps New Yorkers who’ve recently been arrested get their stuff back. The illustrated guide breaks down the property seizure and civil forfeiture processes into detailed steps, including what to do when you’re arrested and after you’re released.

Get It Back! launched in January 2016 at The Bronx Defender’s offices as part of a series of events for their larger campaign pushing for transparency in the civil forfeiture process. The Bronx Defenders and their partners are distributing thousands of these guides throughout New York City from Property Clerk’s offices to courtrooms.

Get your copy of the booklet here.

Resources & Links

The Bronx Defenders provides innovative, holistic, and client-centered criminal defense, family defense, civil legal, and social support servicesto indigent people in the Bronx.

L + L is the graphic design partnership of Leigh Mignona and Liz Seibert, located in Brooklyn, NY. Their work is rooted in a concept-driven, iterative, and collaborative philosophy of design.

Public Access Design is a program of the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP). Public Access Design projects use design to make complex urban issues accessible to the New Yorkers most affected by them.

Funding Support

Support for this project was provided by the James Conlon Fund, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Special Thanks

Jazlyn Patricio-Archer; Christine Gaspar; Sergio Jimenez and Bill Bryan, Brooklyn Defender Services; Vichel Kumar, Neighborhood Defender Service; Ritchie Torres, Councilmember; Steve Mignona


  • CUP
  • Oscar Nuñez
  • Ingrid Haftel

  • The Bronx Defenders
    • Advocacy Partner
    • Karen Maxim
    • Rafaela Uribe
    • Walter Rodriguez

    • L + L
    • Designers
    • Leigh Mignona
    • Liz Seibert


    Pocket Guide Attempts to Increase Transparency in the Justice System
    • Impact Design Hub
    • January 07, 2016

    The Center for Urban Pedagogy recently partnered with The Bronx Defenders and designers L + L to create Get It Back!, a pocket-guide for the recently arrested to retrieve their personal items upon release. The book illustrates the process, which is often convoluted and not intuitive, with straightforward instructions and a sleek design.