csi legal services project
Community Success Initiative is piloting a direct legal services initiative to formerly incarcerated men and women or those currently entangled in the criminal justice system. We will work to provide legal remedies such as securing a driver’s license, obtaining certificates of relief, creating and/or modifying child support orders, and occupational licenses. We believe that civil legal problems are as significant a barrier to obtaining and keeping a job as any other non-legal life issue. Because civil legal problems are often overlooked, addressing and resolving these problems upon reentry will be an essential component to participants reaching programmatic milestones.
**NOTE: Two members of the legal team-- Daryl Atkinson and Lynn Burke—are persons previously incarcerated, who are now licensed attorneys, and clients will have the benefit and support of persons who having navigated the reentry process successfully. They can offer professional services after having made a successful turn around after prison. See links here to their stories.
Attorney Daryl Atkinson
View his video, speaking at the Second Chance Lobby Day Press conference:
Attorney Lynn Burke (licensed to practice in DC, recently passed NC Bar)
View her video, speaking at the Second Chance Lobby Day Press Conference:
The following questions are an example of questions used to determine if our clients could use our help:
What legal issues they feel is impacting their ability to find work?”
Do they have a valid driver license?
Do they have any pending charges or outstanding warrants for arrest? When and where?
List all prior convictions.
1. Driver’s License Restoration
Many of our clients will need help restoring or obtaining their driver’s license. If a person has a revoked or suspended driver’s license, they often won’t have a legal or feasible way to get to work. Driver’s license recovery assistance is very limited through the other project partners. This type of advocacy through the legal team will help restore the driver’s licenses of clients and also make them more competitive for a wider range of jobs that require a license.
2. Certificates of Relief and Expungements
Criminal background/arrest records are barriers to job placement when:
They contain inaccurate and/or extraneous information. Until they are repaired, these records almost always contain excessive information about a person’s contact with law enforcement or the court or the corrections system. When all this information is unnecessarily and wrongly included, the records become quite long. When we assist, oftentimes we can help get it down to fewer pages, which are less impressionable. In this sense, this type of assistance can ensure that potential employers do not immediately discard a person’s application into the “no” pile.
They contain accurate information but the employer incorrectly concludes that the crime statutorily prohibits the sectors where the person can get a job. For example, many employers in the health care and transportation industries treat any felony as a statutory ban on employment when in fact the statutory bans are very limited. We can assist in this type of relief for clients.
3. Child Support Arrears
Large child support arrears act as a disincentive to work: left unchecked, arrears often result in re-incarceration for violation of a court order. Furthermore, arrears also can result in the worker receiving so little take-home pay that he/she is unable to support him/herself. Consequently, they are left thinking that the job is not worth the effort, despite their desire to financially support their children.
The Legal team can help reduce the financial burden on the client so that he /she can succeed in the program while same time maintaining a regular payment to support his/her child (ren). Here, it is important to emphasize that recent recidivism statistics confirm that a strong family support system is a curser to success after release from incarceration. Therefore, a realistic child-support payment is also important because they not only raise the parents’ self-esteem but are a positive step towards fixing the damaged parent- child relationship that usually occurs when a parent is incarcerated, thus increasing their probability of success after their release.
4. Occupational Licensing Advocacy
Many prisoners while incarcerated are trained in various trades and even more have college degrees. The majority will not be eligible to receive a license despite their training due to the subjective interpretations of the law by licensure boards. Moreover, many occupational licensure boards often attach societal stigma to people with a record and unjustly deny licensure in various professions based on that stigma. With our legal assistance we may be able to help overcome those stigmas.
Our three North Carolina major legal defense partner agencies
The North Carolina Justice Center
- http://www.ncjustice.org is the state’s leading progressive advocacy and research organization. Their mission is to end poverty in North Carolina by ensuring that every household has access to the resources, services and fair treatment it needs to achieve economic security. The Justice Center works to improve the lives of low- and moderate-income North Carolinians through five main strategies: 1) Litigation of cases that will have widespread impact on public policy and protections; 2) Analysis of current public policies and research on alternatives that will reduce poverty; 3) Advocacy for policy changes that will benefit disadvantaged communities; 4) Community Education that empowers individuals and groups to pursue change; and 5) Communication that influences state leaders and shapes public opinion.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice
- http://www.scsj.org is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in August 2007 in Durham, North Carolina by a multi-disciplinary group, predominantly people of color, who believe that families and communities engaged in social justice struggles need a team of lawyers, social scientists, community organizers and media specialists to support them in their efforts to dismantle structural racism and oppression. The Southern Coalition for Social Justice promotes justice by empowering minority and low-income communities to defend and advance their political, social and economic rights. They use the combined skills of lawyers, social scientists, community organizers and media experts to help underrepresented people develop strategies to achieve their visions for themselves and their communities, incorporating an international human rights perspective and linking their efforts to broader processes of political, legal, social and economic change in the South.
Legal Aid of North Carolina
- (LANC) http://www.lanc.org is a statewide, nonprofit 501(c)3 law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity. LANC operates in all 100 counties in North Carolina through 20 geographically-based offices. LANC’s Raleigh office will work closely with RExO partners on addressing legal issues that are barriers to the employment of ex-offenders in southeast Raleigh.
...from Legal Aid of North Carolina, regarding our at-risk youth and their special legal needs. Click here to go to our page regarding the legal needs of youth and their rights to an education. Parents and councilors, please visit this page.
Collateral Consequences Assessment Tool
UNC School of Government has developed a Collateral Consequences Assessment Tool. This interactive database contains all the laws that are triggered based on an individual's criminal record. This extremely valuable tool is available for free here: http://ccat.sog.unc.edu/. Listen to the Alliance's own Daryl Atkinson explain why this is an important tool for both lawyers and individuals with criminal records here: http://wunc.org/tsot/archive/SOT_80212B.mp3/view.