Welcome to the Penn Law Prisoners’ Education and Advocacy Project!
The Penn Law Prisoners’ Education and Advocacy Project is a student-run pro bono project at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. The Project seeks to promote efficient self-advocacy among prisoners and ex-offenders while fostering a better understanding among law students of how the criminal justice system treats those charged with crime.
The Prisoners’ Education and Advocacy Project consists of several components:
The Prisoners’ Legal Education Program
Each week, several Penn Law students volunteer to teach legal education courses in four Philadelphia prisons. Students have taught courses such as Criminal Law, Evidence, Criminal Procedure, Mental Health Law, and Employment Law. It’s a mutually beneficial activity: Penn Law students are able to solidify their knowledge as they prepare lesson plans, and the inmates are exposed to a new way of thinking and a new wealth of legal knowledge. Students teach in groups, with an upperclassman serving as the team leader and assigning roles for each group member. Our teaching curriculum is advised by Penn Law Professors and approved by the Philadelphia Prison System.
The Pardon Me Clinic
The Pardon Me Clinic is an excellent opportunity for law students to provide clients with much-needed direct services while requiring a minimal time commitment. In the Clinic, students assist individuals who are seeking pardons from the office of the Governor of Pennsylvania. The pardon application process, while complicated, offers an opportunity to overcome the ongoing challenges and stigma that accompany a criminal record. Students help applicants to understand the basic guidelines of the process and to aid them in completing their applications. The Clinic meets once a month for two hours.
The Expungement Clinic
The Expungement Clinic is organized in conjunction with the National Lawyers Guild to provide individuals with free assistance in obtaining expungements. Expungements are needed in order to remove records of arrests that did not lead to conviction from a person’s criminal record in Pennsylvania. That means that anyone who was tried for a crime and found not guilty, or even had the charges dropped immediately after arrest, still has these charges listed on his or her criminal record unless the charges are expunged. Expungement is particularly important in the modern employment context because employers can easily obtain this information through criminal background checks, and a non-conviction arrest can mean the difference between getting a job and not getting one in today’s economy. The clinic meets four times per month for three hours, but volunteers can participate in as few as one clinic each month.
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project is a non-profit, public policy organization located at Temple Law School and is comprised of lawyers and law students working to exonerate wrongfully convicted persons through DNA testing and a general reform of the criminal justice system. Students can review case files and other crucial documents to determine whether convicted individuals have a legitimate claim of factual innocence.
The Defender Client Interviewing Project
Students in this program volunteer to conducting client intake interviews at the Defenders Association of Philadelphia. The project is unique in that it gives students an opportunity to interact directly with clients on a one-on-one basis. Most of the interviews are conducted to open files for the public defenders office on charged individuals - students take down the client’s account of his/her arrest and any alibi story and also open investigation requests if necessary. Participants dedicate 4 hours per week interviewing clients.As evidenced by these projects, PLEP not only serves an educational function to its members, it also provides them with the opportunity to engage in direct client contact early in their legal careers.
The Prisoners’ Education and Advocacy Project organizes several speaker events and panels each semester for the benefit of members and other Penn Law students. These events are intended to increase understanding and awareness of prison issues amongst the student body.
Please note that PEAP does not accept prisoners’ rights law-related inquiries, conduct case evaluation, or dispense legal advice.