Georgia Justice Project (www.GJP.org) seeks applications from third-year law students or recent law school graduates for sponsorship of a Skadden, Equal Justice Works, or other public-interest fellowship set to begin in the fall of 2019.
Georgia Justice Project (GJP) is a non-profit, public interest law office that represents people who are indigent and are currently involved in the criminal justice system or have been previously involved in the system.
For over 30 years, Georgia Justice Project has provided vigorous legal representation combined with holistic social service support to clients who are indigent and facing criminal charges in Fulton and DeKalb Counties, the two major Atlanta-area counties. For the last 12 years, GJP has also assisted clients around the state with expunging and correcting their criminal history and dealing with the collateral consequences of a record. GJP also actively engages in statewide policy and legislative advocacy in an effort to lower barriers for people with criminal records on a systemic level. We have been an active force in recent criminal justice reform efforts in Georgia, and have been involved in significant legislative changes.
We are seeking highly motivated applicants who have the demonstrated ability to help design and implement a project under the direction of our Legal Director, which will significantly impact our program work and clients.
We have identified the following areas of need for a fellow, and urge applicants to identify which area or areas best fits their interests and skillset:
- Probation Advocacy: As part of a comprehensive effort around criminal justice reform in Georgia over the last eight years, including changes to the state probation system, Georgia has a long ways to go. Georgia currently has a greater percentage of people on probation than any state and sentences individuals to far longer terms of probation than all other states; this overuse of probation is a major driver of Georgia having the highest rate of correctional control in the nation —1 in 12 Georgians is either in jail, in prison, on probation, or on parole, compared to an average of 1 in 35 nationally. There is an opportunity to continue to push for further legislative and administrative changes and advocate for those serving excessive probation sentences. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people on probation in Georgia do not have adequate access to representation while serving a probation term. When issues arise, such as inability to pay fines and fees, during the course of a probation sentence, people are often left without legal guidance or proper advocacy. As we seek to expand our representation in this area, we would rely heavily on a fellow to provide the bulk of the direct client services, to lead the effort in designing and implementing the program’s structure, and to push forward with statewide advocacy efforts to expand and implement recent reforms such as the Behavioral Incentive Date, which allows for early termination under certain circumstances. We envision that the fellow would develop materials and trainings for people who are currently under supervision as well as other stakeholders such as probation officers, attorneys, and judges.
- Occupational Licensing Advocacy: In 2016 GJP successfully advocated for occupational licensing reform in Georgia. The law that passed applies “Ban-the-Box” principles to how applicants who have a criminal record are considered for a state license. Licensing boards are now required to consider a conviction’s relevance to the license sought, the time elapsed since the conviction, and the nature of the conviction, among other factors. Implementation of the new law has been uneven among Georgia’s many licensing agencies, resulting in the need for further clarification of the law that was passed in 2018. The fellow would connect with the licensing agencies to understand how they have changed their process in light of the changes to the law and advocate for further changes where necessary. The fellow would also produce education materials for individuals seeking a license, and represent individuals who are appealing a denial of an occupational license (or a restriction on their license) based on their criminal record. The fellow would collect data on how the changes to the law are being implemented.
- Expanding Expungement Summits: In spite of several improvements to the laws around restriction and sealing of criminal records in Georgia over the last few years, reforms have been implemented unevenly around the state. There is an opportunity to improve buy-in around the new laws and lay the groundwork for future reforms by supporting local expungement events around the state. To date, there have been eight one-day expungement events over the last two years, primarily in metro Atlanta counties. GJP has actively participated in the planning and execution of these events, and we are now being contacted by other jurisdictions that are considering events. These events provide an opportunity to reach more individuals and assist them with their record without a huge increase in resources – 4.2 million Georgians have a criminal record and GJP can only represent a fraction of those who need help. These events also ensure that local stakeholders, including prosecutors, judges, and legislators are educated about the impact of having a criminal record on accessing employment, housing, and other opportunities. In our experience so far, the events have opened up a dialogue about the need for comprehensive expungement reform in Georgia. The fellow would create best practice for hosting events, create trainings and webinars, and travel around the state helping to prepare for and host these events.
- Reentry Lawyering at the Metro Reentry Facility – The Georgia Department of Corrections has recently opened a new facility in Atlanta, called the Metro Reentry Facility, which will house men who plan to return to the Atlanta area. The goal is to provide comprehensive preparation for reentry (life skills, housing, employment, and family connections) for the 350 men during their last 12 to 24 months of their incarceration. Resources will start with pre-release programming and follow the men in to the community to support successful reentry. Georgia Justice Project has been tasked with providing technical and start-up support for this pilot project. Part of GJP’s role will be to meet with inmates and access their legal needs, which may include: driver’s license issues, child support, debt issues, family law issues, criminal records issues, and pending warrants in other jurisdictions. The goal is to remove any legal barriers that would get in the way of successful reentry. The fellow would work closely with the counselors at the facility to access and meet the legal needs of the participants in the program, help recruit volunteer attorneys to meet those legal needs, and provide direct representation on a variety of legal issues.
- Criminal Defense Education – While recognizing that EJW and Skadden generally do not support actual criminal defense, GJP believes that a project focused on providing materials and guidance to individuals and their families who are facing criminal charges or currently serving their sentence could be invaluable. Most counties in Georgia do not have public defender offices; many counties use a system where individual attorneys are appointed to represent indigent defendants. These appointed attorneys often lack the time and resources to provide comprehensive representation for their clients. For 32 years GJP’s core service has been representing individuals with pending criminal cases in two metro Atlanta counties. We do not anticipate expanding beyond those counties, but want to take what we have learned over the years and give others the information they need to navigate the system. Over the last few years we have been getting an increasing number of requests for guidance from social service agencies and family members who are trying to help a client or loved one who has a pending case. The fellow would develop a manual for agencies, individuals, and family members as well as online resources, such as a series of videos to provide information about how the system works to ensure that the defendant’s rights are not violated and that they receive the representation they are entitled to.
If you are interested in pursuing a fellowship with GJP as your host organization, please email your resume, a cover letter indicating your preferred area(s) of work as listed above, and describing your personal interest in this work and in working at GJP. Also, please include a brief writing sample (or excerpt) of no more than 5-7 pages. Please email these materials to Elizabeth@GJP.org. Please use the subject line “Fellowship Applicant.” Because we are late in posting the fellowship opportunities this year, any candidate will need to be sure they will have time to meet with GJP staff (via skype/phone if necessary) and draft the applications from mid-August to mid-September to meet the September deadlines.
GJP will accept applications until August 10, 2018, but will consider applications as they are received.
GJP is an equal opportunity employer to all persons regardless of race, sex, color, age, religion, actual or perceived gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, ethnic or national origin, or familial status. We especially invite applicants who are themselves formerly-incarcerated or justice-involved, or have family members that are directly impacted by the system.