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John Santoro L’21

John aims to use his legal education to contribute to the abolition of the prison-industrial complex and help build a society that serves the many, not the few. John graduated from Columbia University where he was first exposed to the depravity of the carceral state as a tutor for boys held in the youth jail on Rikers Island. John worked as a client advocate at the Center for Appellate Litigation (CAL), the appellate public defense office for Manhattan and the Bronx. At CAL, John focused on obtaining post-conviction relief for non-citizen clients, mitigating abusive conditions of confinement, and parole advocacy. His work also included writing excessive sentence briefs and visiting clients in prisons and Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities across New York State. In addition to mass de-carceration, John is interested in policy designs that advance a broad expansion of the welfare state, promote worker control of the economy, and address the material roots of social problems under capitalism. 

At Penn Law, John is the treasurer of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and a class representative for the Immigrant Rights Project. He is currently collaborating with his NLG colleagues to establish direct connections between students and incarcerated people and is working alongside Toll Fellow colleagues on two new projects: an alternative curriculum that applies a critical lens to doctrine and a Compassionate Release Project for incarcerated people with terminal illnesses. John also volunteers with the Walk-In Legal Assistance clinic, the Pardon Project, and the Criminal Record Expungement Project. During his 1L summer, John worked at the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Pennsylvania to defend people facing deportation proceedings in immigration court.