Over spring break, 5 members of PLAP and another HLS student traveled to New Orleans, LA to work with the Promise of Justice Initiative (PJI) on a lawsuit seeking injunctive relief to deliver constitutionally adequate medical care to incarcerated people at Angola. Our students helped the attorneys prepare for trial by reviewing and creating a database for incarcerated people’s requests for disability accommodations and creating aids for expert testimony. The students were able to spend a week enjoying the great city of New Orleans while also contributing valuable work to an important case. PLAP looks forward to being able to continue building a relationship with PJI in the future!
We’re so thankful for these students for spending their spring break working on this important cause!
Today, members of Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC, came to Harvard Law School to speak to a group of students. Free Minds uses books, creative writing, and a peer support system to awaken incarcerated youth to their own potential. Their motto is “Books and Brotherhood.” Through creative expression, job readiness training, and violence prevention outreach, these young poets achieve their education and career goals, and become powerful voices for change in the community.
We heard from two amazing formerly incarcerated youth who are now Free Minds Poet Ambassadors. These young men bravely shared their stories and backgrounds, and discussed how working with Free Minds enabled them to recognize their skills and value. After learning about the organization, HLS students had the opportunity to read the work of incarcerated youth and provide encouraging feedback. It was a powerful event that demonstrated how books, creative writing and social support have the incredible power to teach, build community, and change lives.
For more information on Free Minds or if you want to get involved with this great organization, please visit their website.
In this photo, three students can be seen talking to Nick, one of the Free Minds Poet Ambassadors who traveled all the way from DC to meet with us and share his story.
Last Wednesday, February 22, PLAP hosted Jesse White, the attorney who runs Prisoners’ Legal Services’ Prison Brutality Project. The project seeks to address the widespread problem of correctional staff abusing their authority by assaulting the men and women who they are employed to keep safe. Jesse staffs the Rapid Response to Brutality Project, which responds quickly to document prisoner injuries and conduct interviews in the wake of excessive use of force incidents. She also conducts investigations, provides both individual and systemic advocacy, provides pro se and pro bono litigation assistance, and assists with PLS’ brutality litigation.
Jesse spoke to a large group of PLAP students about her work, her background, and strategies we can use to more effectively handle cases involving officer brutality. We are grateful Jesse took the time to speak with us, and look forward to PLAP’s continued involvement with the Prison Brutality Project.
PLAP is hiring rising 2Ls and 3Ls to work as full-time student attorneys this summer. PLAP is one of the few large-scale law student practice organizations delivering legal services to incarcerated individuals, and has helped defend Massachusetts prisoners’ rights for over four decades.
Student attorneys represent Massachusetts state prison inmates in parole and disciplinary matters, typically working alongside PLAP’s supervising attorneys on behalf of 4-6 incarcerated clients over the course of the summer. Through this work, student attorneys have a unique opportunity to shape their own cases and practice advocacy by crafting arguments, interviewing clients, conducting discovery, and cross-examining witnesses in disciplinary hearings. Summer student attorneys also staff PLAP’s hotline and respond to incarcerated individuals’ legal research requests.
Qualified candidates will have a sincere interest in criminal justice and serving the incarcerated. Training will be held during the last weeks of May and you must be able to spend 10 weeks working for PLAP. You should be able to drive and rent a car in the United States. Past hotline experience and/or Spanish language skills are a plus.
PLAP volunteers will receive a $500 stipend in addition to any public interest funding available through other sources. As a small office, PLAP offers a casual environment and flexible hours, letting you do RA or similar work at the same time.
To apply, send a resume and cover letter stating your interest in PLAP’s work to Dennis Dillon at email@example.com.
Applicants will be contacted for an interview if their application passes the screening stage. Interviews will continue until all positions are filled, but preference will be given to applications received prior to February 22, 2017.
Now that students have returned from winter break, the PLAP office is back up and running! We are excited to announce that this year we will be open during J-Term, so we will be answering phone calls and responding to letters as usual.
PLAPpers, now is a great time to take advantage of a light course load and take a case! We’re excited to see all the great work PLAP can accomplish this month.
On Thursday, October 6th, PLAP Board Members Dennis Dillon, Annie Manhardt, and Katherine Robinson testified at a public hearing regarding proposed changes to the Massachusetts Department of Correction regulations. As an organization, we submitted testimony regarding proposed changes to the regulations that govern disciplinary hearings, use of force, and grievance procedures. A few of the department’s proposed changes we support as long-overdue amendments to DOC policy, such as prohibiting the issuance of disciplinary reports for self-injurious behavior and providing that defendants in disciplinary hearings may seek accommodations for their disabilities. However, PLAP students reviewing the proposed changes identified a number of issues that concern us including the use of overly broad language that would give correction officers little guidance in assessing aggravated assaults and the reasonable use of force, vague and redundant offense definitions that could lead to further abuse of disciplinary reports, failures to clarify aspects of sanctions procedures that could lead to inconsistent and unfair outcomes, and new language that runs the risk of deterring the submission of valid grievances. At the hearing, we voiced our concerns before DOC representatives, along with our supervisor Joel Thompson (who spoke on behalf of Prisoners Legal Services), families of incarcerated people, and representatives from the correction officers union. Though it remains to be seen whether the DOC will incorporate any of our comments into the amended regulations, Katherine Robinson states that she is “glad we 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.”
Last week new PLAPpers participated in our annual cross-examination training. This is an important training as it prepares new 1Ls to take on their own disciplinary hearings and teaches them basic advocacy skills. Lawyers from across Boston volunteered their time on Wednesday evening to help students with the difficult task of cross-examining a witness. Experienced PLAPpers played the role of an uncooperative reporting officer, and new PLAPpers had just moments to review the facts of the case and prepare questions for the officer. All of the students did a great job with their first ever cross-examination, and we know they’ll be ready for the real thing as they begin taking cases.
Executive director William Ahee is seen here with John Fitzpatrick, one of PLAP’s Supervising Attorneys, explaining what cross-examination is and how PLAPpers can best prepare for hearings.
With the new school year now in full swing, PLAP is happy to announce that this year it has added more new members than ever! 122 students attended New Member Orientation last week. In order for new members to learn how PLAP works and how to best help our clients, we ask that all new members attend a training one evening during the week of September 19. Trainings will occur in the PLAP office (WCC 5107) Monday through Thursday from 7-9pm. We look forward to seeing you all there and are excited for what this big group of PLAP students will be able to accomplish this year!