Prisoner & Reentry Clinic

The Prisoner & Reentry Clinic represents prisoners and individuals facing legal barriers as a result of their criminal records. The clinic’s cases sit at the intersection of the civil and criminal justice systems and tackle issues related to mass incarceration, prisoner reentry, and the collateral consequences of criminal convictions. This is an intensive litigation clinic in which students, under faculty supervision, handle their cases from start to finish. Students can expect to handle cases in state and federal administrative tribunals or in D.C. Superior Court. Representative casework includes representing a client in a parole matter or seeking to expunge a client’s criminal record. Students may also participate in policy advocacy before the D.C. Council or with organizational clients on prisoner and reentry issues.   

Through this clinic, students develop a wide array of skills, including interviewing and counseling clients, problem-solving, collaboration, developing factual and legal theories, case planning, witness preparation, negotiating with opposing parties, oral and written advocacy, and system analysis and reform. The classroom component of the clinic focuses on skills development as well as structural issues related to the intersection of poverty, race, and the civil and criminal justice systems. The clinic is open to all second and third year students with no prerequisite courses.​

Information for Students

This an intensive litigation clinic and students will be responsible for lawyering their cases from beginning to end. Students will interview clients​, develop factual and legal theories, conduct research, prepare witnesses, negotiate with opposing parties, write briefs and motions, and/or conduct evidentiary hearings. In preparing to represent their clients, students may travel to prisons, their clients’ homes, and government agencies to conduct interviews and obtain relevant evidence. The Clinic also engages in local policy advocacy and students may have the opportunity to prepare white papers, collect data, draft rules and statutes, or deliver testimony at public hearings.

Students in the Clinic will learn to effectively undertake the responsibilities of lawyers, and to consider the possibilities and limits of the lawyer’s role. They will be challenged and encouraged to think through strategic decisions at every stage of the client representation or policy work. Students will learn how to utilize different statutory and regulatory frameworks to craft factual narratives and legal arguments, and will become familiar with the ways in which different tribunals adjudicate disputes.​ 

Each semester the clinics hold an Open House where each clinic’s faculty is available to answer questions about their clinic. Students may contact Professor Steinberg at any time to discuss the clinic or to ask specific questions.

For more information, and to apply, please login to the portal. Application materials are posted at least a few weeks prior to the start of the registration period for the following semester.

In the News

Clinic Fellow Maya Dimant Testifies in Support of Occupational Licensing Bill on Behalf of Returning Citizens

Prisoner Reentry Clinic

Maya Dimant, Friedman Fellow and Visiting Associate Professor

Maya Dimant, Friedman Fellow and Visiting Associate Professor in the Prisoner & Reentry Clinic, testified before the DC Council on January 26, 2020 in support of a law to lift barriers to occupational licensing for citizens returning home from prison. To demonstrate the importance of this bill, Professor Dimant shared the story of Mr. H, a clinic client, who is about to be released on parole after 25 years in prison. Mr. H earned parole at his first hearing, with community volunteers naming him a model prisoner, a "brilliant writer" and an "incredible role model." Extraordinarily, based on training he pursued while incarcerated, Mr. H was able to secure employment as a plumbing apprentice upon his return to the community. But to turn his apprenticeship into a profession, Mr. H has to obtain a plumbing license from the District of Columbia government, which can refuse to grant one based on his felony record. Professor Dimant spoke to the significance of granting hardworking returning citizens access to professional licenses so they can achieve economic opportunity and the dignity of self-sufficiency.

Watch Professor Dimant's testimony here

Fair Practices After Sentencing: A Proposal for Reforming Good Time, Earned Time, and Compassionate Release in the District of Columbia

Prisoner Reentry Manuel

The Prisoner & Reentry Clinic has developed a white paper, Fair Practices After Sentencing: A Proposal for Reforming Good Time, Earned Time, and Compassionate Release in the District of Columbia, proposing that the District of Columbia expand opportunities for early release from prison. Recognizing that many prisoners are serving harsh mandatory minimum sentences long after their rehabilitation, the white paper advocates for two mechanisms that can reduce a prison term once an individual no longer poses a threat to public safety.  

The first proposal recommends an expansion of the District’s good time and earned time programs, referring to a system of sentence-reduction credits awarded in prison for compliance with institutional rules and participation in rehabilitative programming. The second proposal seeks to transform the District’s compassionate release program, providing a mechanism for prisoners who are over 65 years old or suffering from serious medical conditions to petition the court for early release.  

The Prisoner & Reentry Clinic has represented dozens of older prisoners who are at risk of dying in prison when more compassionate and sensible alternatives are available. The white paper relies on archival research into the District’s complex legal regime as it has evolved over decades to demonstrate that the laws governing older prisoners, in particular, are out of step with today’s prevailing norms. Developed in conjunction with the Public Defender Service and the Council for Court Excellence, the proposals in the white paper encourage elected D.C. officials to consider policy changes that may attack mass incarceration by ending long prison terms that no longer serve a rehabilitative or retributive purpose.

Read the White Paper 

 

Time Served: Clinic Student Testifies in Support of Prisoner Sentence Reduction

Prisoner Reentry Clinic

Alexandra North, 2L, Prisoner and Reentry Clinic

On March 26, 2019, 2L and Prisoner and Reentry Clinic (PARC)  student Alexandra North testified at a hearing of the DC Council to advocate in favor of the "Second Look Amendment Act of 2019," which would allow rehabilitated prisoners to seek a sentence reduction in court. In recognition of emerging brain science about the risk-taking behavior of young adults, the proposed legislation would allow people sentenced to lengthy prison terms when they were under 25 years old to petition a court for early release. Ms. North's testimony focused on a PARC client who would have the opportunity to request a judicial review of his sentence under the proposed law. He was sentenced to 47 years to life in prison when he was only 20 years old and has since demonstrated extraordinary rehabilitation during his nearly three decades of incarceration. Alongside direct client representation, this policy advocacy allows PARC students a holistic view of the post-conviction landscape for DC residents navigating the criminal justice system.

Watch Ms. North's testimony here

Alumnus Continues Clinic Work as Pro Bono Passion

Prisoner Reentry Clinic

Bart Sheard, JD '15

Bart Sheard, JD '15, worked on his first parole case through the Prisoner & Reentry Clinic at GW Law. Now, he continues to provide desperately needed legal advice to clients in pro bono parole cases.

His current case takes him to USP Lee, a US penitentiary in Pennington Gap, Virginia, which is a 15-hour round trip from DC.

Mr. Sheard said working in the Prisoner & Reentry Clinic had a significant impact on him as a student and future public interest attorney.

“It was one of the best experiences I had in law school,” he said. “Professor Jessica Steinberg walked us through the importance of this work and how it is part of larger systemic issues that citizens can face when they’re incarcerated. She helped with my writing, research, and ability to present a case and was an indispensable part of my education.”

Read more about Mr. Sheard's passion for pro bono work in a GW Law feature.

Presidential Clemency for a Clinic Client

Prisoner Reentry Clinic

Katie Mello, JD '16; Jessica Steinberg; and Steve Magnusson, JD '16

GW's Prisoner & Reentry Clinic won clemency for two clients, Rudolph Norris and Fred Glover, from President Barack Obama as part of the Obama Administration's historic clemency initiative to end harsh prison terms for low-level drug offenders.

Student-attorneys Courtney Francik, JD '15 and Bart Sheard, JD '15, worked tirelessly on Mr. Norris' case with support from Professor Jessica Steinberg and Friedman Fellow Mira Edmonds. The New York Times  profiled their work and published an opinion on the matter from Professor Steinberg.​

Mr. Glover's clemency grant was the product of outstanding and dedicated work on the part of student-attorneys Katie Mello, JD '16 and Steve Magnusson, JD '16. GW Law covered their work in depth.

Parole Practice Manual for the District of Columbia (2018)

Parole Practice ManualAuthored by Professors Jessica Steinberg and Katy Ramsey, the Parole Practice Manual for the District of Columbia is the only comprehensive primer on parole practice for D.C. residents. The manual is intended to assist incarcerated individuals in securing their freedom and is available to download for free in the link below. Questions regarding the Manual should be directed to Jessica Steinberg, Associate Professor of Clinical Law and Director of GW's Prisoner & Reentry Clinic.

View the Manual

Faculty

Jessica Steinberg

Jessica K. Steinberg

Associate Professor of Clinical Law and Director of the Prisoner & Reentry Clinic