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Decarceration Advocacy Project (formerly Prison Legal Education Project)

The goal of the the Decarceration Advocacy Project, formerly the Prison Legal Education Project, is to support the decarceration movement by empowering people who are currently incarcerated in Pennsylvania jails and prisons through legal education and post-conviction relief assistance. Through this work, we hope to give incarcerated individuals resources and support so they know and can fully pursue their legal rights.

Read more about the project and our impact.

 

What we do:

The Decarceration Advocacy Project is composed of two parts:

Legal Education: We work with incarcerated people in the women’s units at Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center (a jail) to create legal resources relevant to their current situation. We facilitate weekly discussions on Friday afternoons about these resources. Topics include, but are not limited to, steps of misdemeanor and felony criminal cases, court-appointed attorneys, family law, housing law, plea decisions and their consequences, resources for when they’re out (food, shelter, healthcare, etc.), search and seizure law, self-defense law, and tax law. We also translate our resources into Spanish.

Post Conviction: We work with individuals who are incarcerated on appeals and Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petitions. Incarcerated individuals have a right to pursue appeals of their convictions and submit post-conviction challenges after a conviction is finalized. We work with Phillips Black (a nonprofit, public interest law practice) to help prepare petitions pursuant to the PCRA for individuals identified as wrongfully convicted by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit. Work includes legal research, file review, and necessary work including digesting transcripts, discovery, police reports, and depositions.

 

How we do it:

Legal Education: Volunteers work with incarcerated individuals at the facility during each weekly lesson alongside other Penn Carey Law students. We disseminate our weekly resources and then talk with folks in small groups or one-on-one about the resources. We listen to people’s stories and write down any information that should be added to our handouts based on those conversations. We do not provide individual legal advice. Transportation to the jail is covered by TPIC.

Post Conviction: Volunteers assist attorneys on their clients’ PCRA petitions by conducting legal research, file review, and any other necessary assistance. Work will primarily be assigned as discrete projects with specified time commitments. A project can include digesting a transcript, reviewing police reports, or any other steps necessary to prepare a client’s PCRA petition. Work will be completed remotely on the volunteer’s schedule.

 

How and when can I join:

Interested volunteers should email Aleyah Hassan (aleyah@pennlaw.upenn.edu), one of the Post Conviction chairs, and Meagan Murray (mmeagan@pennlaw.upenn.edu), one of the Legal Education chairs, with any questions.

You can also visit us at the Pro Bono sign up fair to learn more!

 

What skills will I develop:

Working with incarcerated clients, community lawyering, legal research, legal writing, legal analysis, classroom management, public speaking, presentation skills, teaching and making legal jargon digestible.

 

This work is likely to be New York Bar eligible.