By Dixie Tauber, J.D. ’17
Prison Legal Assistance Project
The Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP) is honored to participate in Pro Bono Week! PLAP differs from other SPOs in that all students are able to join. Because of this, we are a group comprised of students with all different experiences and interests. While some PLAPers join the organization already dedicated to criminal justice reform and educated on the topic, others join without any prior knowledge or experience in the field. I joined on a whim after being encouraged by a friend, and have never looked back.
From the beginning of 1L year, PLAP provides students with the opportunity for direct client interaction and representation. Our clients contact us from prison requesting legal assistance and representation in Department of Corrections (DOC) hearings. We represent them, deliver closing arguments, and cross-examine witnesses. Working on a client’s case often times turns into a collaborative learning experience for all.
Recently, PLAP’s focus has extended far beyond just direct representation. In early October, 2Ls Andrew Dillon, Annemarie Manhardt, and Katherine Robinson testified at a DOC hearing regarding proposed changes to the current DOC regulations. The students submitted written testimony supporting some of the changes, and articulating concerns with others, and then were given the opportunity to speak in front of DOC representatives, families of incarcerated people, and representatives of the correction officers union. While it remains to be seen whether the DOC will incorporate any of our comments into the amended regulations, Katherine states that she is glad to have had this opportunity to voice our clients’ concerns, share the experiences of student attorneys who navigate these regulations, and help shape the rules that dictate so much of our clients’ lives. It is our hope that by providing both direct representation and this type of advocacy, we can make as big of an impact in the lives of prisoners as possible.