Tag: Harvard PLAP (page 1 of 2)

Join PLAP as a 2021 Summer Intern

Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project
2021 Summer Student Attorney Program

The Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP) is now accepting applications for its 2021 Summer Student Attorney Program.

Why work at PLAP this summer? Here are just a few reasons:

  • At PLAP, you will take the lead on your own cases and directly represent clients in prison disciplinary, parole, and classification hearings. You will interview clients, develop case strategies with our Supervising Attorneys, draft and submit motions to dismiss and discovery requests, cross-examine witnesses and argue at hearings, and get experience writing and filing appeals.
  • PLAP’s clients need your help. In Massachusetts, prisoners are not automatically given lawyers for disciplinary or parole hearings. You are their best chance for competent representation.
  • You will learn from experienced attorneys. Our Supervising Attorneys will guide you through the representation process and will help you develop your advocacy skills more broadly.

Qualified candidates will have an interest in criminal justice and representing incarcerated persons. Training will be held during the last weeks of May. You must be able to spend 10 weeks working full-time for PLAP during the summer months. In addition to representing clients, you will answer phone calls from prisoners in the PLAP (virtual) office and respond to written requests for help. Spanish or other foreign language skills are a plus.

PLAP summer student attorneys 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.  This position will likely be 100% remote.

Interested students should email an application package including a resume, cover letter, writing sample, and at least one reference to Shanell Lavery (sblavery@law.harvard.edu).

We will review applications on a rolling basis.

PLAP’s Shanell Lavery Honored with WLA Shatter the Ceiling Award

Wednesday, April 17th is the Harvard Women’s Law Association’s Shatter the Ceiling Awards ceremony. Each spring, the WLA recognizes the people who represent the gold standard for promoting inclusiveness and equality, both at Harvard Law School and beyond.

Shanell Lavery, program manager of the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP), is being awarded with WLA’s Shatter the Ceiling Award for Staff Excellence in Promoting Equity and Justice. Lavery is a tireless advocate and the work PLAP does would not be possible without her. We are so grateful for her leadership and hard work.

Below are a few important reflections on Shanell Lavery’s work with PLAP:

“Shanell hit the ground running at PLAP.  She has a deft touch with students, striking that important balance of supporting students as they operate a student-led organization, while being hands-on enough to ensure that the office runs smoothly.  She fulfills an important role for us as the face of the office, interacting with students, interns, prisoners, other HLS offices and staff, prison officials, and parole officials. Across all of those interactions, she demonstrates real professionalism, which ensures that the office runs smoothly and also serves as a model for law students.  We’re lucky to have her.”

– Joel Thompson, PLAP Supervising Attorney


“Shanell goes above and beyond for PLAP. She keeps the office running so smoothly that we often don’t even realize just how much she does. She often gives up her own time to meet with people or help with the office after hours. She also knows virtually every member of PLAP (not an easy task in such a large organization), and has been a wonderful resource and friend. I have loved working with Shanell and I will miss working with her after I graduate.”

– Kaitlyn Gerber, 2018-19 PLAP Executive Director


“In addition to being amazing at her job, Shanell is an amazing mother, commuting all the way from Providence to spend her days with us, but always getting her kids to school before she comes here and supporting them, alongside her wife, every step of the way. In daily work, Shanell is on top of so many thankless tasks that student attorneys may never even think about because she’s there behind the scenes. Every year, she deals with the logistical nightmare of getting every single member of PLAP approved by DOC. Having the system set up through Shanell means that we don’t run into any issues when we show up at the door. Our work could not happen without her.”

– Rachel Kroll, 2018-19 Legal Resources Manager


This year’s Shatter the Ceiling Award honorees include:

Shanell Lavery, for Staff Excellence in Fostering Equity and Justice

Da Lin, for Excellence in Fostering an Inclusive Classroom

Judge Lauren Reeder, for Alumni Excellence

and All Professors who Signed the Kavanaugh Letter, for Excellence in Promoting Gender Equity (Judge Nancy Gertner will be accepting on behalf of this group)

PLAP Student Attorneys Visit Prison

Last semester, new student attorneys visited MCI Cedar Junction, the reception center for male offenders in the Massachusetts Department of Corrections.  The tour guide brought the group through multiple areas of the prison, including the cells, the visiting area, and the Department Disciplinary Unit.

The tour of the cells went by two different sections–one area for new inmates who are at Cedar Junction temporarily while they are assigned to a permanent placement, and one for inmates who have been placed in the facility longer-term.  New inmates’ cells are more open, with bars instead of a door, while inmates who will be staying at Cedar Junction have more privacy–a solid door with a window.  In the visiting area, there  are sections  for both contact and non-contact visits.  While a contact visit allows the prisoner and visitor to sit with one another without a barrier and to have some physical contact, a non-contact visit involves the use of phones on either side of a glass partition.

Cedar Junction, a maximum security facility, also houses the Department Disciplinary Unit, or DDU, for the entire Department of Corrections.  One DDU Correctional Officer spoke about his experiences with these prisoners, who are often restricted from having contact with one another.  These inmates remain in individual cages when they are brought outside, but sometimes fights break out anyway if one inmate reaches through to another.  The CO described breaking up these fights, occasionally by using “chemical agent.”  The tour group also saw the DDU’s therapy area, which is furnished with therapeutic modules.  These modules are essentially cages that allow for group therapy programs while keeping the prisoners separated from the facilitator and each other.  Student Attorney Anca Gabriela Bunda says, “The experience of visiting the DDU unit, where prisoners are put in solitary confinement, was also very eye-opening and has made me more motivated to work with PLAP.”

This was many students’ first trip to a prison.  It is important for student attorneys to gain an understanding of their clients’ lives and situations before they represent them in hearings.  Student attorney Laurel Fresquez says, “my experience was interesting with the prison. I’ve never been to one before and had no idea what to expect. It was nice to get some context…It just really reinforced that the prisoners are people who have rights that need protecting.”



Nationwide Prison Strike Enters Second Month

Inmates in prisons across the country have been striking since September 9th, the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison riots.  Prisoners are utilizing both labor strikes and hunger strikes to protest mass incarceration and prison labor conditions.  One organization heavily involved in the strike, the Free Alabama Movement, issued a press release highlighting the use of underpaid or unpaid prison labor by governments and corporations.  As the strike has continued, inmates in multiple states have reported retaliation and harsh treatment in response to their actions, including solitary confinement of organizers and the use of tear gas and riot gear.

In Massachusetts, inmates at Souza-Baranowski correctional center staged a peaceful protest on September 8th in response to new proposed regulations regarding visitation and communication.  One such regulation would limit the number of visitors on each inmate’s pre-approved visitor list to five at a time.  Advocates argue that these regulations interfere with prisoners’ ability to stay connected to their family and community support systems.

New WBUR Series Addresses Parole for Juvenile Lifers

On Thursday, September 8, WBUR released the second half of its two-part series on the release of juvenile lifers–people who were sentenced to life in prison before the age of 18.  The series follows two Massachusetts men, Greg Diatchenko and Joe Donovan, who have recently been released on parole after spending decades in prison.  PLAP is one organization in the state representing juvenile lifers like Diatchenko and Donovan before the parole board.

Read or listen at WBUR.

MIT Study: Juvenile Incarceration Reduces Likelihood of Staying in School

A recent study done by Joseph Doyle, an economist at MIT’s Sloan School of Business Management, and Anna Aizer, a professor of economics at Brown University, suggests that “other things being equal, juvenile incarceration lowers high-school graduation rates by 13 percentage points and increases adult incarceration by 23 percentage points.”

Click here to read the press release of the study, and here for the full report.

New York Times Op-ed Gives Overview of Dealing with Mass Incarceration

The Sentencing Project‘s Marc Mauer, along with Georgetown Law professor David Cole, wrote an op-ed last week in the New York Times, offering a holistic perspective on criminal justice reform, addressing issues of mass incarceration, drug courts, sentence lengths, and recidivism, among others.

Click here for the full article.

Vera Institute of Justice publishes report on misconceptions of solitary confinement

“Whatever the label, the experience for the person is the same —confinement in an isolated cell (alone or with a cellmate) for an average of 23 hours a day with limited human interaction, little constructive activity, and in an environment that ensures maximum control over the individual.”

Click here for the report, summary of the report, and the Washington DOC’s grid for solitary confinement, and click here to go straight to the pdf of the report.

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker calls for criminal justice reform

On April 23rd, 2015, in an an op-ed published on CNN.com, New Jersey Senator (D) Cory Booker called for large-scale reform of America’s criminal justice system:

“As we reform our criminal justice system at the national level, we will alter the cycles of poverty and recidivism that plague too many American communities … Instead of putting resources toward juvenile detention centers, we can put resources toward afterschool programs that have proved to help keep kids out of the juvenile justice system and in school.”

Click here to read the full article.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Unveils Plan to Cut Rikers Island Population



“As of late March, over 400 people had been locked up for more than two years without being convicted of a crime … As part of Mr. de Blasio’s proposal, all cases involving defendants who have been incarcerated for over a year — currently more than 1,500 people — are to be put on the court calendar within 45 days.”

Read the full NYTimes article, by Michael Schwirtz and Michael Winerip, here.

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