Pro Bono Law Students (Remote or Hybrid)

Are you a law student seeking meaningful pro bono hours?

We are accepting applications from law students interested in undertaking innovative legal research that will help build the advocacy community challenging constitutionally dubious systems of pre-crime preventative detention. We have a number of available projects depending on your availability and interest:

  1. Work with grassroots advocates to identify vulnerable prosecution practices and expert testimony to be challenged by local counsel
    1. We have a great deal more to say about this but it would be inappropriate to share those thoughts on a public website
  2. Develop a “know your rights” (KYR) guide for potential respondents designed to emphasize common “traps” relied on by the prosecution
    1. In virginia, the Attorney General’s Office routinely persuades respondents to stipulate to the “SVP” label in exchange for their recommendation of “conditional release” instead of involuntary psychiatric commitment “to a secure facility for inpatient treatment”. The trap is that the Attorney General knows that their recommendation is meaningless, the question of imprisonment is up to the court, the court customarily defers to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS), and the DBHDS is likely to object to “conditional release”. In other words, persons are being tricked into waiving their rights to a trial that would determine whether they meet the (pseudo-) psychological criteria for commitment in exchange for their release to a form of extremely restrictive probation, but they are committed anyway. The attorneys in this field frequently encourage their clients to accept these ridiculous and self-sabotaging “deals”.
    2. Recent legislative amendments in Kansas have confused the mechanism for accessing judicial review of the individuals involuntary psychiatric commitment. Without clear guidance many persons will be denied constitutionally mandated hearings and their confinement may be automatically extended by a year or more.
    3. Each state system is slightly different and will require a state-specific guide. As there are 21 systems (20 states plus the federal BOP facility act Butner), this is a significant endeavour. However, once a single KYR guide is developed it can be adapted to reflect the rules in the other state systems.
  3. Collaborate with a prominent formerly incarcerated advocate to develop possible statutory changes designed to cripple and dismantle these systems.
    1. We will begin with a set of in-depth recommendations focused on a single state and create specific amendment language for each concept.
    2. We will then adapt those possible approaches to other systems.
  4. Provide technical assistance and guidance to experienced “jailhouse lawyers” living behind the walls at these not-a-prison prisons. We believe the people closest to the problem are often closest to the solution, but furthest from resources and opportunities. Just Future Project works closely with a number of shadow prisoners with true expertise and fluency in the nuances of these byzantine and Kafkaesque legislative schemes used to contain them. With your help (and former legal training) we will be able to dramatically magnify their advocacy and share that work with others, including the broader legal community. Here are a few needs proposed by people living behind the walls for potential collaboration:
    1. Accessible plain language guide to what rights you lose and what rights you keep when you are subjected to involuntary psychiatric commitment as a so-called “sexually violent predator”. For virtually everyone at these prisons masquerading as mental hospitals, this supposedly civil confinement has come on top of years (and sometimes decades) of imprisonment in a regular prison. The SCOTUS decision in  Kansas v. Hendricks relied on the rational that persons committed for secure inpatient treatment under this new mechanism of “sex offender civil commitment” would be held in the same “non-punitive” conditions as patients in the traditional (medical) model of civil commitment. States have not lived up to this promise and shadow prisoners need clear guidance on where the bright lines are supposed to be — this is especially confusing for persons accustomed to the restrictions of the prison system, and compounded by the mischaracterizations of their rights presented by the facility staff. Shadow prisoners cannot effectively assert rights they don’t know they have.
    2. Analysis of the difference between “conditional release” for a committed person under the state “sex offender civil commitment” program and the rules and requirements of that states “normal” rules for persons who have been convicted of a sex-related crime. This is difficult to grasp for people living behind the walls because most of them were never free in the community to experience the paradigm formerly imposed by the state on those individuals with historical sex related convictions (if they were the restrictions have likely changed significantly since then.) A law student will collaborate with a “jailhouse lawyer” (a person directly impacted by these laws) to understand how the “conditional release” system is being implemented in his state and then compare that to the constellation of laws restricting persons labeled “sex offenders” in that state (e.g. registration and notification laws, residency restrictions, exclusionary zones, etc.).

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