Systemic Justice Project

The Sheller Center’s Systemic Justice Project is taught by Prof. Shanda Sibley.

Why the clinic? The National Inventory of Collateral Consequences now lists more than 40,000 laws and regulations that impose limitations on people who have been convicted of a crime. These consequences range from the well-known (e.g., voter disenfranchisement) to the truly obscure (e.g., restrictions on operating a bingo game). Collateral consequences pervade both state and federal law and, while most are reserved for felony convictions, many can attach even to those only convicted of a misdemeanor. America holds more than 2 million people behind bars at any given time; each year, more than a half million of those people are released back into their communities. Collateral consequences serve as barriers to reentry for each and every one of those people – dictating where (and with whom) they can live, what kinds of work they can do, what they can own, and what opportunities they will have to participate as members of our society.

What will you do? The clinic partners with community groups, social-service providers, and legal organizations operating within the space of civil rights, inmate rights, and re-entry to identify the most pressing areas for intervention on the local and state level. Students identify systemic problems related to collateral consequences, engage in research and information gathering around those issues, and strategize about the most effective ways to advocate for change. Students also develop and implement community education projects in partnership with community organizations. The clinic gives students a chance to work in an area of public interest law that is deeply textured, widely relevant, and profoundly rewarding.

What else will you learn? In the seminar, students learn about collateral consequences and their intersection with the criminal legal system; examine the substantive and procedural laws governing civil rights litigation; engage in critical analysis of the legal framework overlaying a civil rights practice; and cover lawyering practice skills.

Skills: Problem solving for individual and organizational clients; systemic advocacy skills (e.g., public policy advocacy, community education)

The Systemic Justice Project is a 2 credit graded seminar plus a 3 credit pass/fail clinic.