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Compassionate Release Collaborative (CRC)

The Compassionate Release Collaborative (CRC) is a new pro bono project that helps seriously ill inmates in Pennsylvania’s prisons file petitions for compassionate release.

What we do:

CRC’s process will be split into three stages: 1) intake, 2) legal representation, and 3) continued care. At the first stage, CRC screens potential clients and chooses to work with individuals whose cases seem appropriate for compassionate release. Second, CRC helps to collect the necessary paperwork and draft the compassionate release petition to be submitted on the client’s behalf. Finally, once compassionate release is granted, CRC works with the client’s loved ones to coordinate hospice care for the client upon release.

How we do it:

CRC partners with the Abolitionist Law Center (ALC), a public interest law firm and organizing project which provides free and low-cost legal services to individuals incarcerated in Pennsylvania. CRC volunteers may be asked to review potential clients’ intake information and draft memos assessing their appropriateness for compassionate release; correspond with selected clients to ensure the timely completion of necessary documents; and help draft compassionate release petitions under the supervision of ALC.

How and when can I join:

CRC is seeking interested collaborators and volunteers. To be placed on our mailing list, please email Paul Sindberg (sindberg@pennlaw.upenn.edu).

What skills will I develop:

Criminal justice, interviewing & intake, memo writing, working with vulnerable clients, and drafting court pleadings.

Criminal Record Expungement Project (C-REP)

The Criminal Record Expungement Project (C-REP) aims to reduce the negative effects of a criminal record on a person’s life, including limited access to employment, educational opportunities, housing, and public benefits.

What we do:

C-REP works with Philadelphians who have criminal records by conducting intake clinics for clients, processing intake applications, and filing petitions to expunge and redact non-conviction data from clients’ criminal records.

How we do it:

C-REP partners with Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (“PLSE”), a non-profit legal aid organization dedicated to improving the lives of low-income individuals who are affected by the Pennsylvania criminal justice system. There are three intake clinics per semester that take place on Saturdays in West Philadelphia. During these clinics, volunteers meet with clients, listen to their stories, and screen their criminal records for expungement-eligible (i.e. non-conviction) charges. Volunteers may be able to participate in more than one clinic depending on interest and availability. There are also opportunities for volunteers to draft expungement petitions.

How and when can I join:

Visit C-REP at the virtual pro bono sign-up fair (in Room 2 - Civil & Political Rights, Criminal Justice and Global practice groups) and look out for details regarding the mandatory trainings in the fall semester, which will occur on September 20 and September 21, 2022. The time commitment for this project is flexible. Interested volunteers may also email the Co-Chairs, Jordan Cohen-Kaplan (jcohenka@pennlaw.upenn.edu) and Maggie Sawin (masawin@pennlaw.upenn.edu).

What skills will I develop:

Interviewing & intake, client counseling, drafting court documents, and engaging with the community by working with vulnerable clients.

The work is likely to be New York Bar eligible.

Law & Justice Mentorship Program

Law & Justice Mentorship Program (LJMP) is a pipeline initiative aimed toward connecting high school students of color, historically underrepresented in the legal profession, to critical pre-law opportunities and mentorship. Our goal is focused on increasing high school student exposure to and enrollment in local law schools. 

What we do:

We work with local high schools to create opportunities for groups of students to examine social issues, participate in summer internships, and develop a mentor relationship.

How we do it:

LJMP’s structure has three components: In-School Sessions, Summer Experience, and Mentorship. In our In-School Sessions, we help teach various topics and skills through guest speakers and workshops. To help build students’ summer experience, we pair students with pre-law organizations and law schools. Lastly, we connect students with mentors in law and justice related fields across the city. 

How and when can I join:

If you are interested, please email Alisha Rodriguez at ralisha@law.upenn.edu.

What skills will I develop:

Community engagement, leadership, group management, education and public speaking.

Pardon Project

The Pardon Project is committed to reducing the collateral consequences of criminal convictions by assisting Philadelphia residents with pardon applications.

Mission Statement:

The Penn Law Pardon Project empowers people to move past their prior convictions. Despite having already paid for their crimes in bail, jail time, and court costs, formerly convicted persons continue to face discrimination when they try to get jobs, go back to school, apply for housing, and register to vote. In Pennsylvania, the only way to remove a felony or non-summary misdemeanor conviction from a record is by receiving a Pardon from the Governor. The Penn Law Pardon Project pairs students with client-partners to complete the pardon application process.

What we do:

We work with Philadelphia residents with criminal convictions that are seeking a pardon from the Governor. We work in collaboration with our client-partners in every aspect of the pardon application including helping secure court files, writing the required essays, and filling out the required forms.

How we do it:

The Pardon Project is a year-long pro-bono project where students are paired with at least one client-partner and work in collaboration with Community Legal Services and Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity. Students will work with the client-partner over the course of the year to complete the pardon application.

How and when can I join:

Our application is live until September 18. Participants must attend training in the Fall and commit to the project for the full academic year. If you have questions, please email the Pardon Project Co-Directors, Kanyinsola Ajayi, Jake Drucker, and Julia Kerbs.

What skills will I develop:

Client counseling and interviewing skills, legal analysis skills, legal writing, and advocacy skills.

The work is likely to be New York Bar eligible.

Penn Law’s Walk-In Legal Assistance Project (WILA)

At a weekly clinic, WILA provides accessible civil legal services to people who are experiencing homelessness or are housing insecure.

What we do: 

Students complete intake services and assist with birth certificate applications, SSI/SSDI screenings, tax returns, landlord/tenant disputes, issues with public benefits, and other civil legal issues at a weekly meal program. Students may also complete work outside of the regular times of the clinic as required for cases or outreach projects.

How we do it:

People who are attending a weekly meal program come to the legal clinic’s station when they are looking for legal assistance or advocacy. Students conduct an intake interview and assist with completing the applicable civil legal services while working closely with the supervising attorney.

Who we work with: 

We work with clients who are housing insecure or experiencing homelessness at a weekly meal program, run by the University City Hospitality Coalition (UCHC). Additionally, WILA partners with the Homeless Advocacy Project, an organization that delivers legal services directly to people experiencing homelessness where they live and eat.

How and when can I join:

Students should complete WILA’s volunteer application during the first few weeks of the Fall semester. Upon acceptance, WILA volunteers must attend a Homeless Advocacy Project training, offered at the law school, before they can begin assisting clients. After the application period has closed, interested students should email Volunteer Coordinator Megan Bird.

What skills will I develop:

Interviewing and intake, client counseling, access to government and social services, community engagement, legal analysis.

The work is likely to be New York Bar eligible. 

Prison Legal Education Project

The goal of the Prison Legal Education Project is to work with incarcerated individuals to ensure they can know and fully pursue their legal rights.

What we do:

The Penn Law Prison Legal Education Project works with people who are currently incarcerated at Riverside Correctional Facility to jointly lead a workshop on legal research and writing, as well as relevant criminal and civil law. Our curriculum is flexible based on the needs of those currently incarcerated.

In collaboration with Houldin Law, we also work with individuals who are incarcerated and working on appeals and Post-Conviction Relief Act petitions.

How we do it:

For prison legal education: Volunteers work with incarcerated individuals at the facility during each lesson alongside a few other Penn Law students. The class is collaborative and student-directed: volunteers will work together with the student-partners to review key aspects of legal research and writing and discuss relevant legal issues. Transportation for the trip is funded.

For post-conviction work: Volunteers work in a 2 or 3 person group conducting legal research, investigatory work, and any other necessary assistance. Volunteers will commit to working with one client per semester.

How and when can I join:

Interested volunteers should email Aleyah Hassan and Meagan Murray with any questions. 

What skills will I develop:

Working with incarcerated clients, community lawyering, legal writing, legal analysis, classroom management, public speaking, presentation skills, education.

Youth Education Program (YEP)

The Youth Education Program (YEP) introduces high school students to the basics of law through weekly lessons and preparation for a moot court or mock trial competition.

What we do:

We teach Philadelphia high school students basic constitutional principles and provide an opportunity for enrichment in the social sciences. We also help students develop public speaking skills and build arguments so they can effectively perform in mock trial or moot court competitions in the Spring. Broadly, this program is intended to get students excited about legal principles and ideas.

How we do it:

Penn Law students teach in various Philadelphia public high schools and prepare high school students to participate in either Mock Trial or Moot Court competitions. Following basic legal lessons, in the fall semester Penn Law volunteers educate all high school classes on a Constitutional amendment. We will also be hosting a new symposium for students in the first semester. In the spring, volunteers will prep their students on either (1) a fact pattern that focuses on a legal issue that highlights all the learned principles for the Moot Court Competition or (2) the assigned case for the Mock Trial Competition. The program culminates with the students competing against their peers from all the participating high schools in either a Mock Trial or Moot Court Competition.

How and when can I join:

Keep an eye out for an application in the Fall semester! We’ll be at the Pro Bono sign up fair as well. If you have any questions, please email YEP’s Director Joe Stuever (jstuever@pennlaw.upenn.edu). 

What skills will I develop:

Community engagement, appellate advocacy, trial strategy, trial prep, classroom management, public speaking, presentation skills, education

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