2014 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Maya Dimant Lentz

Maya Dimant Lentz

City, State: Evanston, Illinois
Issue area: Children/Youth, Criminal Law
Sponsors: DLA Piper

The Project

Maya is breaking the school-to-prison pipeline for minority students in Evanston through community-based representation, restorative justice skills-building workshops in schools, and leveraging local resources.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
Schools that should be community centers for educating our children are instead becoming gateways to incarceration, portals to a racist and overzealous criminal justice system. This school-to-prison pipeline disproportionately affects the high percentage of minority and low-income children in Evanston. This project offers innovative solutions based on integrated social work and legal services to create a replicable model for disrupting the cycle.
Highlights to Date: 
In the first six months, Maya has:
• Become trained as a restorative justice circle keeper
• Created and implemented a “know your rights” curriculum with local partner organizations to provide tools for youth to empower themselves with their constitutional rights in interactions with police
• Updated an elementary and middle school discipline alternative curriculum to include restorative justice principles
• Assisted with litigation preparation
What's Next: 
In the next six months, Maya plans to:
• Run a pro bono expungement clinic
• Begin direct representation of clients in special education and criminal proceedings
• Pilot the new restorative justice based discipline alternative curriculum in area middle and elementary schools
The Right Person For This Project: 
Maya is the right person for the project because:
• She is passionate about building comprehensive, holistic, personalized solutions to seemingly intractable problems.
• She has extensive experience advocating to end overincarceration and improve prison conditions, so she is eager to   get started working to close the pipeline from the front end
• She loves working with teenagers and has extensive experience working with 3-22 year olds

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