Section Description Provided by Instructor
The Prisoners and Families Clinic operates at the intersection of the criminal justice and family court/child welfare systems and engages in both advocacy and education. The clinic provides advocacy to people in prison as well as those who have been released to help them preserve parental rights or achieve family reunification. The clinic also informs people in prison about the ways in which they can advocate effectively for themselves.
For the advocacy component, the students provide legal assistance and representation on issues relating to family law and parole. Students are given primary responsibility for a client's case and generally meet with their client several times to develop a case theory and strategy. The cases may involve court appearances, drafting of appellate briefs, or informal negotiation. It is generally possible for students to continue working on their cases in the spring semester.
In the educational component, the Clinic works collaboratively with the parenting center at a women's prison and may also work with a fathers' program at a men's prison. Students first observe a family law class taught by an inside facilitator to other incarcerated individuals. The students then work in groups to design, prepare and teach one of the classes later in the semester. The classes are designed to teach lay-advocacy skills and typically involve role-play simulations in which the students and incarcerated individuals participate together. These classes are designed to provide preventive lawyering in order to help the women and men take the steps necessary to improve their chances of success in court proceedings concerning their children or to avoid legal problems altogether.
To prepare for this work, students are educated through a process of classroom and experiential learning. In the early part of the semester, students are exposed to some of the rich literature about prisons and prison life and are provided with a background in the relevant substantive law. To develop the lawyering skills they will need to work with clients, students participate in intensive simulation exercises. Students also examine relevant issues of professional responsibility that arise in work with indigent clients who are involved in the criminal justice and family court/child welfare systems.
M 4:20 –6:10 p.m.
R 4:20 –7:20 p.m.
WH 304WH 304
Method of Evaluation
J.D. Writing Credit
Minor (automatic), Major (only upon consultation)