Reimagining Reentry: Letters from Inside

Happy Holidays, Friends of Root & Rebound!

As 2015 comes to a close, we are excited and proud to launch our end-of-year campaign, Reimagine Reentry, featuring a video about our work, Letters from Inside.

The goal of this campaign is not only to raise money, but to raise awareness in the Bay Area and beyond about what we do here at Root & Rebound. This year, Root & Rebound produced and published the Roadmap to Reentry, a legal guide that provides comprehensive guidance on barriers in reentry across nine areas of law and life.

In 2016, we plan to expand the use of Roadmap to Reentry, so that we can transfer powerful information from a small legal community to the massive number of people facing disenfranchisement upon release.

Additionally, we will provide more community-based trainings across California—in prisons, for families with incarcerated loved ones; with correctional departments; at community centers, and in places of worship—to strengthen families and communities.

We also plan to make the Roadmap to Reentry information more accessible for people in reentry and their advocates by building online content and interactive toolkits to reach more people, thus increasing access.

Finally, we will continue our policy reform work and grow our efforts to educate partner groups, advocates, and policymakers about issues on the ground—to reduce barriers and expand opportunities for people coming out of prison and jail, and create a healthier society.

To accomplish all this, we need your help! Please take 3 minutes to watch our video, share with your social networks, and if you can, make a donation.

 

“Roadmap to Reentry Guide & Interactive Hub” are Live!

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Root & Rebound is proud to introduce “Roadmap to Reentry: A California Legal Guide,” which will help to educate, support, and empower the 50,000 Californians leaving prison and jail each year, and the tens of thousands of people across the state who support them–family and loved ones, educators, social workers, legal advocates, and community supervision agencies.

Visit www.rootandrebound.org/roadmap to find out more!

THANK YOU TO ALL WHO WORKED ON THE GUIDE & HUB!

WE COULDN”T HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT YOU.

The “Roadmap to Reentry” guide is the first of its kind in the United States, an in-depth legal resource for people struggling through reentry. It is comprehensive in scope and length (1,200 pages!), covering nine areas of law and civic life: housing, public benefits, parole & probation, education, understanding & cleaning up your criminal record, ID & voting, family & children, court-ordered debt, and employment. With a California focus, the guide is written in simple language and meant to be used as a resource that people can turn to (rather than read cover-to-cover!) whenever they encounter challenges along the way. The guide is available free of charge to people in reentry and their loved ones, while professionals at community-based organizations, government agencies, and the like will be asked to make a sliding scale donation of $20-$50. On Root & Rebound’s “Roadmap to Reentry” Interactive Hub, you can download copies of the guide, request a hard copy, ask the Root & Rebound team a question, or request a training for your organization.

In conjunction with the guide, Root & Rebound will begin to conduct trainings across the state of California for communities in need: people in reentry, those preparing for release, and the people who support them in the community, including legal and social service providers, community supervision officers, and friends and family. Our first training on May 29th in the Bayview area of San Francisco is full, but many more will come soon! Email roadmap@rootandrebound.org to request a training, or do so through the hub.

Launch Event
We welcome you to our “Roadmap to Reentry” launch event at Root & Rebound’s downtown Oakland office (1730 Franklin Street, Suite 300, Oakland, CA 94612) on Thursday, June 4, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m, where you can learn more about the guide, get hard copies, and ask questions to the R&R team.

Media are invited, interviews are available, and all are welcome.

Please spread the word @ROOTandREBOUND and on Facebook! #roadmaptoreentry

Pick 6 (4/17/15)

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Hi friends. Again it is Friday, so again it is time for our weekly Pick 6! Our Pick 6 consists of 6 informative, insightful reentry & criminal justice-related news articles and commentaries that we’ve been following throughout the week. We welcome any and all thoughts or feedback, so don’t be shy!

1.) John Legend Launches Campaign to End Mass Incarceration (AP)

From the AP: “John Legend has launched a campaign to end mass incarceration. The Grammy-winning singer announced the multiyear initiative, FREE AMERICA, on Monday…”We have a serious problem with incarceration in this country,” Legend said in an interview. “It’s destroying families, it’s destroying communities and we’re the most incarcerated country in the world, and when you look deeper and look at the reasons we got to this place, we as a society made some choices politically and legislatively, culturally to deal with poverty, deal with mental illness in a certain way and that way usually involves using incarceration…I’m just trying to create some more awareness to this issue and trying to make some real change legislatively.”

2.) Are you running for President? Please answer these questions about the criminal justice system. (Washington Post)

Thus far, Hilary Clinton (D), Ted Cruz (R), Marco Rubio (R), and Rand Paul (R) have announced their candidacies for President of the United States. Radley Balko, author of the book “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces,” has strung together a “quick and dirty list of [criminal justice related] questions” that he’d like to see 2016 Presidential candidates answer.

3.) Federal Prosecutor Tries a Radical Tactic in the Drug War: Not Throwing People in Prison (Huffington Post)

“[South Carolina’s top] U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles is testing out a novel approach to dealing with drug-related crime, one that aims to clean up the streets by looking beyond mass arrests and incarceration…If the program’s success continues in South Carolina, it could become a model for law enforcement across the country…Nettles’ plan is surprisingly straightforward. First, federal and local prosecutors identify local drug dealers with the help of the police, probation officers and community members. Next, they build criminal cases against them by reviewing records for outstanding warrants and conducting undercover drug buys. In most cases, arresting all the dealers would be the next order of business, but Nettles has a different idea. While high-level dealers are still arrested and prosecuted, some low-level offenders are given another option. For them, Nettles stages something of an intervention. Together with the police, family members, religious leaders and other members of the community, prosecutors present the dealers with the evidence against them and give them a choice: Face the prospect of prison or participate in the pilot project. The program, officially known as the Drug Market Intervention Initiative, helps the dealers find legitimate jobs and offers them help with drug treatment, education and transportation. The hope is that it provides them with the support and the motivation they need to turn their lives around.”

4.) Driver’s License Suspension Create Cycle of Debt (New York Times)

“The last time Kenneth Seay lost his job, at an industrial bakery that offered health insurance and Christmas bonuses, it was because he had been thrown in jail for legal issues stemming from a revoked driver’s license. Same with the three jobs before that. In fact, Mr. Seay said, when it comes to gainful employment, it is not his criminal record that is holding him back — he did time for dealing drugs — but the $4,509.22 in fines, court costs and reinstatement fees he must pay to recover his license. Mr. Seay’s inability to pay those costs has trapped him in a cycle that thousands of other low-income Tennesseans are struggling to escape. Going through the legal system, even for people charged with nonviolent misdemeanors, can be expensive, with fines, public defender fees, probation fees and other costs running into hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars. Many people cannot pay. As a result, some states have begun suspending driver’s licenses for unsatisfied debts stemming from any criminal case, from misdemeanors like marijuana possession to felonies in which court costs can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars. In Tennessee, almost 90,000 driver’s licenses have been suspended since its law was enacted in 2011…Many defendants are forced to choose between paying court debt or essentials like utility bills and child support. Mr. Seay said his tax refund this year went toward child support debt accumulated during his time in prison and periods of unemployment. For even low-level offenders, debt can make a valid license unattainable…In Tennessee, judges have the discretion to waive court fees and fines for indigent defendants, but they do not have to, and some routinely refuse. Judges also have wide discretion over how much time to allow defendants to pay traffic tickets before suspending a license.”

5.) The Legal Right to Videotape Police Isn’t Actually All that Clear (City Lab)

From The Atlantic’s City Lab: “Last Saturday, a Dominican immigrant named Feidin Santana used his phone to record video of North Charleston police officer Michael Slager firing his gun eight times and killing Walter Scott, an unarmed black man who was running away. Slager has been charged with murder. Santana, who is being celebrated as a hero, has since said that he was terrified and thought about erasing the video. He had reason to be afraid. What if police had assaulted or arrested Santana, or destroyed his phone?…[T]he truth is that courts have not uniformly recognized that a right to record police actually exists. Though the U.S. Department of Justice has expressed its support for the right to record, only four federal appeals courts have ruled that such a right exists; others have either not ruled at all or narrowly ruled that no right had been “clearly established.” Until a right to record police is in fact clearly established, some officers will continue to act against bystanders who record them with impunity.” (Related: California Senate seeks to clarify right to video police conduct)

6.) D.C. Council rejects Corizon Health contract after lobbying battle (Washington Post)

Last month, R&R Legal Fellow Dominik Taylor blogged about the deadly consequences of for-profit prison healthcare. Dominik specifically mentioned Corizon Health’s failings in Alabama and in Alameda County, California. Our last Pick this week is an update on Corizon Health and the movement to improve healthcare for incarcerated people. From the Washington Post: “The D.C. Council on Tuesday rejected a controversial health-care contract proposed for the city’s jail after weeks of fierce arguments and heavy lobbying by supporters and opponents. The council’s 6-to-5 vote against a $66 million proposal by Corizon Health marked a high-profile defeat for Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), who had supported the contract….Contract opponents cast the decision as a victory for inmate care and a rejection of a company mired in legal troubles in other states, including several high-profile wrongful-death lawsuits. David Grosso (I) said that if getting the best possible care for the city’s inmates is the objective, then “contracting with a for-profit, scandal-prone company is not the way for us to get there.” 

Report of the week) Stop and Frisk in Chicago (ACLU of Illinois)

From the executive summary of our report of the week: “Chicago has failed to train, supervise and monitor law enforcement in minority communities for decades, resulting in a failure to ensure that officers’ use of stop and frisk is lawful. This report contains troubling signs that the Chicago Police Department has a current practice of unlawfully using stop and frisk: Although officers are required to write down the reason for stops, in nearly half of the stops we reviewed, officers either gave an unlawful reason for the stop or failed to provide enough information to justify the stop. Stop and frisk is disproportionately concentrated in the black community. Black Chicagoans were subjected to 72% of all stops, yet constitute just 32% of the city’s population. And, even in majority white police districts, minorities were stopped disproportionately to the number of minority people living in those districts. Chicago stops a shocking number of people. Last summer, there were more than 250,000 stops that did not lead to an arrest. Comparing stops to population, Chicagoans were stopped more than four times as often as New Yorkers at the height of New York City’s stop and frisk practice. In the face of a systemic abuse of this law enforcement practice, Chicago refuses to keep adequate data about its officers’ stops…This failure to record data makes it impossible for police supervisors, or the public, to identify bad practices and make policy changes to address them.”

Extra of the week) Letter from Birmingham Jail (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

52 years ago this week (4/16/1963) Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. penned his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail.The letter defends his strategy of nonviolent resistance to racism. King declares that people have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws, and to take direct action rather than waiting potentially forever for justice to come through the courts. King famously wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” (Related: What if MLK’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” Had Been a Facebook Post?)

Take a few moments this weekend to read King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. Or if your prefer, here is audio of King reading the letter. Enjoy. #BlackLivesMatter

Root & Rebound’s panel at Stanford’s Shaking the Foundations Legal Conference

“When you get released and you have nothing–who do you turn to?” Eric Borchert.

Eric was recently released from state prison after decades in prison and he knows all to well the barriers in reentry and the sense of frustration and fear in navigating them. We have written about Eric’s story in a previous Root & Rebound newsletter that you can read here. Although Borchert was lucky to have the support of family, friends and Root & Rebound, many individuals who have been incarcerated do not have access to these support systems and can find themselves in cycles of poverty, homelessness and incarceration. That’s why Eric agreed to be on the recent panel hosted by Root & Rebound at Stanford’s Shaking the Foundations Legal Conference on Overcoming Legal Barriers After Incarceration – so he could spread the word to lawyers, law students, policy makers and the wider public – on the legal and social barriers people face in reentry.

The Panelists were: Elie Miller, R&R Senior Advisor, Eric Borchert, R&R Client, and Katherine Katcher, R&R Founder and Executive Director. The panel discussed the various collateral consequences that individuals confront upon returning to the community from prison or jail and the legal advocacy tools that we utilize to give people a meaningful second chance in society.

Please watch, and ask any questions you might have here about the work, our model, or larger systemic issues! We would love the opportunity to interact with you through Q&A!

Reentry legal services change lives.

Last month, we wrote a blog post about a fantastic community resource in the South Bay: the San José State University (SJSU) Record Clearance Project. This clinic, led by Professor and Attorney Margaret (Peggy) Stevenson, engages undergraduate students to assist people in clearing their eligible criminal records. They do this by:

  • providing legal education about the dismissal process to potential clients;
  • preparing their clients’ petitions to the court, requesting dismissals and reductions of eligible convictions;
  • leading mock court hearings where people can practice talking to a judge about what a dismissal will mean to them in putting their lives back on track and seeking new opportunities, including better jobs and housing;
  • paying for all the court costs and fees associated with their clients’ cases for dismissal.

This week, the Record Clearance Project shared an INCREDIBLE VIDEO interviewing people in Elmwood Jail who have benefitted from the SJSU expungement clinic. The people interviewed in the video talk about how the expungement process has provided them with new opportunities and countless benefits in moving beyond their past. For example, several folks spoke about how the expungement process helped them find better jobs, access professional licenses that got their careers back on track, and find better housing. Many spoke from the heart about how getting their records dismissed gave them renewed self-confidence & self-love. This service gave people a second chance. See the video below:

Record Clearance Project 3/18/14 from John Kane on Vimeo.

As noted in the video, a judge can dismiss an eligible person’s criminal record “in the interests of justice.” This is a broad standard giving the judge a lot of discretion. This is exactly the type of situation where a lawyer and legal advocates are extremely important! If the judge has discretionary power, advocates can counsel their clients to tell their own story in the most impactful way possible and help advocate for a second chance with the client.

This video highlights the importance doing THIS WORK! And the importance of LEGAL ADVOCACY in reentry! It shows how reducing barriers in reentry, by providing legal services like expungements, changes lives and creates opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t exist. People who need reentry legal services have no legal right to an attorney, and there is no money for these services. Having nonprofit lawyers and volunteers engaged means that more and more people can overcome barriers in reentry and access opportunities to create the lives they dream and work hard for.

Thanks, SJSU Record Clearance Project and the people interviewed for this project, for sharing your work and incredible stories!

— The R & R Team

Reentry Starts on the Inside: Enrolling People in Jail and Prison in Medicaid

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Even though “reentry” typically refers to the time after a person is released from prison or jail, the reentry process really begins on the inside, prior to release. Some would say reentry planning should start the moment a person is sentenced, as it can take months or years for an incarcerated person to prepare for life back in the community. This means planning and preparing for the emotional and physical support systems required in reentry—safe and affordable housing, health care, employment, family support, and so on.

One recent change in our health care laws is bringing this principle to life—a ray of hope for people in jails preparing for reentry! In 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) into law. Many of its provisions took effect just last month on January 1, 2014. One of the most powerful changes that Obamacare made to health coverage was the expansion of Medicaid eligibility to more of our nation’s poorest citizens. As Bloomberg reports, “Obamacare replaced a hodgepodge of state requirements that typically excluded childless adults from Medicaid. The 2010 law opened it to anyone making less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level, about $16,000 for an individual.” Many of the people in prison and jail fall within the expanded eligibility based on income, and 25 states—including California—have expanded their state Medicaid programs to include this newly eligible population. In particular, more and more counties in these 25 states are looking to jail-based programs to begin enrolling eligible people into Medicaid, so that a person can walk out of jail with health care coverage. Policies like this serve everyone: they help many currently and formerly incarcerated people access consistent health care and avoid emergency rooms when they get out; they help states save money on health care by taking advantage of federal money; and they help some of our nation’s poorest in jail and prison stay healthier and less likely to end up back in jail or prison once they get out. Reentry must begin on the inside.

Read more about Medicaid enrollment programs in jails here and here. Learn more about the expansion of California’s Medicaid (called Medi-Cal) program here and here. We hope to see more jails and prisons adopting procedures and policies for getting people eligible for Medicaid covered before they walk out the door!

— The R&R Team

What is a “reentry lawyer”?

We hope everyone had a restful Thanksgiving! We took the holiday weekend to recharge and we are now on a week-long trip in Southern California to visit reentry and legal services organizations—meeting with reentry lawyers, practitioners, and formerly incarcerated advocates in Los Angeles & San Diego.

Despite being in our home state of California, the vast geographical landscape means that the work in Northern California and Southern California is quite distinct. While we encounter similar state laws and state actors in our efforts, the local communities and stakeholders are diverse throughout the state. For example, in L.A. yesterday, we had the incredible privilege of meeting with 5 lawyers at 3 different organizations who ALL do reentry legal services work. We say incredible because of the high caliber of work these lawyers perform for formerly incarcerated clients, but also incredible because, generally, it is hard to find 5 people across the COUNTRY who are doing reentry legal services work, let alone in one place in one day. Very inspiring that people are actually doing some of this important work!

Reentry legal services actually means many different things. The civil barriers that people face are so vast that, when it comes down to it, “reentry law” covers the gamut of family law and family reunification, licensing appeals, credit issues, housing, federal and state benefits, expungement, immigration, and employment discrimination. Another reason reentry legal services differ from one organization to another is that reentry is not a single point in time—it is a continuum in a person’s life. The issues someone faces one year before release, the day he or she walks out the gate, one week or one month post-release, and then well into years of reentry are constantly evolving. The legal barriers to successful reentry do not end after 5 years of living in the community nor do they begin right when someone walks out the gate.

It was, therefore, really interesting to meet with reentry attorneys who have been practicing in this area, some for many years. We were able to ask them why they have chosen to focus on certain client populations and certain areas of the law over others. Some of these choices are naturally made by organizations and individual attorneys who are responding to the needs of particular communities and are informed by those needs. Two groups, a New Way of Life and the LAW Project of Los Angeles have a greater focus on expungement work (clearing people’s records) with a mission of getting people back to work. These clients tend to be further along in reentry. Another group, the Pepperdine/ Union Rescue Mission Legal Aid Clinic has more of a focus on family reunification, credit, benefits, housing, and homelessness. These clients tend to be newly released.

We obviously cannot cover all of the areas of reentry law nor reach all of the people exiting prison and jail in the state of California. For our first year of practice, as we incubate this work in the Bay Area, one of the biggest questions we are trying to answer is where we will start our work—that is, where along the reentry continuum we will focus our legal advocacy and what areas of law we will practice to be most responsive to the needs of clients. While we haven’t answered the latter question as fully (what exact services we will provide), we know that we want to focus on newly released clients, beginning our work with them pre-release, providing a bridge of services from prison to community, and into the first few years of reentry. We have chosen to focus on newly-released prisoners because this is where we see a huge gap. There is no organization in the Bay Area solely focused on reentry legal services for men and women at this earliest stage of reentry, and we have heard time and time again from formerly incarcerated people advising us in our work that there are huge legal and social service needs in this early stage of reentry not being met.

This trip to LA and yesterday’s meetings with five committed attorneys at the three organizations helped us to better understand the various areas of reentry law that we can practice and the nuts and bolts of doing this work. While we aren’t ready to announce exactly what we are choosing to focus on (and still need to do more research, focus groups, etc.), we feel that our service model is becoming clearer, and that something really amazing will come of all of our explorations and planning.

—The R&R Team

Employment Law, Title VII, and Advocating for People with Criminal Records

President Lyndon B. Johnson at the signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, of which Title VII is a subchapter. People watching include then Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Senator Hubert Humphrey, First Lady "Lady Bird" Johnson, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, & Speaker of the House John McCormack. Television cameras are broadcasting the ceremony. Source: LBJ Presidential Library.

President Lyndon B. Johnson at the signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, of which Title VII is a subchapter. People watching include then Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Senator Hubert Humphrey, First Lady “Lady Bird” Johnson, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, & Speaker of the House John McCormack. Television cameras are broadcasting the ceremony. Source: LBJ Presidential Library

Earlier this month, Maurice Emsellem, Policy Co-Director for the National Employment Law Project (NELP), sat down with Root & Rebound at his downtown Oakland office to talk about the employment issues that arise for people coming out of prison and jail.

At NELP, Maurice specializes in employment law as it affects people with criminal records. Maurice has worked on collaborations with organizers and advocates that have successfully modernized state unemployment insurance programs, created employment protections for workfare workers, and reduced unfair barriers to employment of people with criminal records in state laws and in city hiring practices. He has testified before Congress and numerous state legislatures, promoting innovative policy reforms.

We were lucky to sit down with Maurice and learn about some key areas in employment law that affect people with criminal records. In this blog post, we wanted to share information with you about how one major federal civil rights law—Title VII—can be used to help people with criminal records who are discriminated against in the employment sphere because of their record.

TITLE VII

  1. First, some basic info: Title VII is a federal civil rights law that says it is illegal for employers with 15 or more employees (20 employees for age-discrimination cases) to discriminate against any individual in recruiting, hiring and promotion decisions, transfers, work assignments, performance measurements, the work environment, job training, discipline and firing, wages and benefits, or any other condition or privilege of employment.
  2. Second important thing to know: Title VII only protects people from discrimination that is based on their membership in what the Supreme Court has defined as a “protected class.” Race, ethnicity, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), and disability are all protected classes under Title VII. Thus, an employer cannot discriminate on these specific bases; but Title VII does not cover groups outside of legally recognized protected classes.
  3. Third, Title VII not only prohibits intentional discrimination against protected classes, but also prohibits employers from having job practices and policies that cause a disparate impact on the basis of membership in a protected class, such as race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. This law is helpful for advocates because, in many cases, it is very hard to prove that an employer intentionally discriminated against a person because of his/ her membership in a protected class; on the other hand, it is easier (though not easy!) to show that, despite an employer’s intention, the workplace policy has a “disparate impact”—that is, it disproportionately harms—a protected class. If a plaintiff shows that a practice has a disparate impact on the basis of sex, race, national origin, or other protected classes, the employer must then show that the job practice is job-related for the position in question and consistent with the needs of the business for the practice to be deemed lawful by a court.

Administrative Guidance on Title VII

  1. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Title VIIThe U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing Title VII and federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee. The EEOC issues compliance guidelines to help employers, courts, and advocates understand and implement Title VII. Importantly for whistleblowers, it is illegal for an employer to retaliate—to discriminate against a person because he or she complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
  2. The EEOC has issued enforcement guidance stating that an “employer’s use of an individual’s criminal history in making employment decisions may, in some instances, violate the prohibition against employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” You can find the EEOC guidance rules online here: http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/arrest_conviction.cfm.
  3. In California, the Employment Development Department (EDD) has also issued Directives related to state and federal employment discrimination laws, including Directives issued to employers who receive federal financial assistance to help them comply with Title VII and their nondiscrimination obligations when serving individuals with criminal records. You can find the EDD’s Directives online here: http://www.edd.ca.gov/jobs_and_training/pubs/wsd12-9.pdf.

So why is Title VII relevant to our work and important for people with criminal records?

Here’s why: In a society that has a racially discriminatory criminal justice system, an overwhelming number of formerly incarcerated people are African American, Latino, and other people of color. So  Title VII’s protections for people on the basis of race, color, and national origin also protect people of color coming out of prison and jail and reentering the job market. Title VII is rich with potential for protecting people with criminal records as they attempt to get work, maintain a stable job, or report discrimination on the basis of their membership in a protected class.

The EEOC has encouraged employers to develop individualized assessments of people with arrest or conviction records in the hiring process, so that they do not violate Title VII. The EEOC guidelines state that, to abide by Title VII, an employer must, at the very least, consider the following four factors in the hiring process: (1) the nature of the applicant’s crime, (2) the time elapsed since the crime, (3) the nature of the job, as well as (4) rehabilitative factors that show a person is ready for work.

Employment laws can and should be leveraged to make reentry as successful as possible, and to fight discrimination against people who have served their time and want to be productive members of our workforce. We hope to see the protections of Title VII enforced and expanded on behalf of people exiting prison and jail—people who are attempting to provide for themselves and their families and enjoy the dignity of a stable job free of discrimination.

Thank you, Maurice, for your expertise and time!

Onward!

–The R & R Team

Reentry Resource: ABA National Inventory on Collateral Consequences of Conviction

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We wanted to write a quick post about the most incredible and helpful resource we have found thus far: the ABA National Inventory on Collateral Consequences of Conviction. In a meeting yesterday with McGregor Smyth, an amazing attorney and advocate who founded the Civil Legal Services division at Bronx Defenders, and is now the Executive Director of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, McGregor told us about the ABA’s online database of the collateral consequences of specific convictions– both state and federal. We were so excited to explore the tool this morning that we had to share it on the blog!

As a refresher, What are collateral consequences of a criminal conviction?

From the ABA: “Collateral consequences are the penalties, disabilities, or disadvantages imposed upon a person as a result of a criminal conviction, either automatically by operation of law or by authorized action of an administrative agency or court on a case by case basis. Collateral consequences are distinguished from the direct consequences imposed as part of the court’s judgment at sentencing, which include terms of imprisonment or community supervision, or fines. Put another way, collateral consequences are opportunities and benefits that are no longer fully available to a person, or legal restrictions a person may operate under, because of their criminal conviction. The most familiar examples of collateral consequences are being unable to vote or obtain certain licenses or possess a firearm because of a felony conviction. But, as this Inventory reveals, there are many other kinds of collateral consequences affecting many areas of life, that take many different forms, and that are triggered by many forms of unlawful conduct.”

Why use the National Inventory of Collateral Consequences?

For all of us, practitioners, formerly and currently incarcerated people and their families, and citizens of the world, it can be very confusing and difficult to figure out the collateral consequences of state and federal crimes. It feels like we are banging our heads against a wall trying to help our clients, ourselves, and our loved ones. This database changes all that.

Through this resource, people can look up the state and federal collateral consequences of any conviction. Most states have been covered by the database; a few are still not included. California is! The site is very user-friendly. There are three ways to search the database: “Search by Keyword,” “Search by Consequence Category,” and “Search by Triggering Offense Category.” Each of these search features can be used individually or in combination. The searches themselves limit results from the database in different ways.

The ABA says: “To some users, this resource represents a way to locate particular collateral consequences that may be of interest, or to determine the range of consequences that may apply as a result of a particular kind of conviction. To others, this resource provides a broad overview of all the collateral consequences contained in a particular jurisdiction’s laws and regulations. Still others may wish to compare the laws and rules in different states, or do a national search for consequences affecting particular benefits or opportunities.”

The ABA has a great User Guide and FAQ page that can help you to understand how to navigate the site, but if you explore it for a bit, you will find its very intuitive, with a wonderful map where you can look up different state and federal consequences.

We hope you spend some time exploring this incredible resource. We are grateful to the ABA and its funders for developing this tool for all of us. We at Root & Rebound and our clients will be hugely benefited by this database.

Have a wonderful Tuesday!

– The R & R Team

Meet Debbie Mukamal, Executive Director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center & Attorney Extraordinaire!


Mukamal

It is only our second official week of work and we at Root & Rebound are already meeting with one of the preeminent experts on reentry services in the country at Stanford Law School. Does it get any better than this?

Meet Debbie Mukamal. She joined Stanford Law School in September 2010. From 2005 to 2010, she served as the founding Director of the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. Debbie oversaw all of the Institute’s projects, including the design and implementation of the NYC Justice Corps, an innovative neighborhood-based reentry service initiative, and the development of research and effective tools in the areas of entrepreneurship, correctional education, long-term incarceration, and reentry from local jails. Before joining John Jay College, she served as the founding director of the National H.I.R.E. Network and a staff attorney at the Legal Action Center, where her work focused on the collateral consequences of criminal records. Debbie holds a J.D. from New York University School of Law and received her B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley.

In other words, she is brilliant and accomplished and, more importantly, so generous and kind. She took an hour and a half out of her busy schedule to meet with the R&R team.

Debbie helped us brainstorm the different possibilities for a reentry legal and social services model in the Bay Area. She asked us to reflect on what knowledge, skill, and experience our staff has that will truly empower those returning to our community. Debbie said, “There are more than half a million people currently incarcerated or on probation or parole in the state of California. You can’t help everyone directly. But you might be able to touch all those lives through policy reform, or make a big impact on a certain population or in a certain community.”

Debbie pointed us to these astounding numbers: At the end of 2012, in California, there were 132,000 people in prison, 79,000 people in jail, 66,000 people on parole, and 419,000 people on probation. These numbers demonstrate how mass incarceration plagues our state and the enormous challenge of taking on the systems that contribute to and create mass incarceration.

Debbie described four common reentry services models and strategies for us to consider as we think about how and where we can be most effective for change:

  • Model 1: Housing a reentry services organization within a Public Defender’s Office or civil legal services organization
  • Model 2: Adding a unit devoted to reentry legal services under the umbrella of an existing non-profit organization providing other kinds of direct services
  • Model 3: Forming a public interest law firm with a strong emphasis on individualized legal services and public policy advocacy where the direct services and policy work inform one another
  • Model 4: Creating a community-based one-stop-shop with wraparound, holistic reentry services that will promote local community economic development

We decided that Model 3 is the best for us to focus and build on. Why? Well, we certainly want to have a focus on legal services & policy advocacy. And, though we want to be community based and integrated, neither Katherine (Executive Director) nor Sonja (Staff Attorney) is originally from the East Bay or even California, so it would be insincere to say we are 100% “in” communities most heavily impacted by incarceration and criminal justice involvement. Rather, we grew up in privileged environments that were not highly policed. We weren’t thrown on the sidewalk growing up as kids, just for being out late and “looking suspicious.” And neither of us has ever spent a day in jail or prison as an incarcerated person, not free to leave.

Rather, we were able to go to school, feel safe, and always be connected to our families. Now we have law degrees that we believe can and should be used for the benefit of people coming out of prison and jail and hoping to reintegrate into their community. Our role, we believe, is to empower those who want a better future than they had past, and for us to play a supportive role in assisting people to get out of prison and jail, stay out, and thrive.

Additionally, having a reentry legal services organization in the Bay Area would fill a huge gap in the local community. Though there are some incredible social service reentry organizations, and a few wonderful poverty-focused legal services organizations, Debbie suggested there might be a need for a comprehensive legal reentry services organization like currently exists in other cities like New York.

So that’s what we have decided to build on: Model 3—a public interest law firm with a strong emphasis on individualized legal services and public policy advocacy. So very exciting!

In addition to all the incredible knowledge about reentry services that we learned from meeting with Debbie, and the “AHA!” moment she gave us, we also walked away with the names of wonderful practitioners and reentry organizations doing work in California, New York, and around the country (you’ll be hearing from us!).

We also now understand and truly appreciate that Stanford’s Coupa Café sells the most incredible Spicy Mayan Mocha. 😉

Debbie, thank you, thank you!

–The R & R Team