2014 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Jessica Frisina

Jessica Frisina

Name of Host Organization: Michigan Children's Law Center
City, State: Southgate, Michigan
Issue area: Children/Youth
Sponsors: Norflet Progress Fund

The Project

Jessica worked to stem Detroit’s school-to-prison pipeline, by providing an innovative continuum of legal services that addressed educational needs, provided delinquency representation, and advanced sustainable, restorative alternatives to expulsion and incarceration.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
Detroit’s children continue to be shuffled along the school-to-prison pipeline at alarming rates. Due to dwindling resources and harsh disciplinary policies, children are pushed out of school through expulsion hearings and into juvenile court. This pipeline is particularly devastating for the city’s most vulnerable populations – children in poverty, children with special needs, and children of color. Without coordinated, legal advocacy, those children are significantly more likely to drop out of school altogether and/or become incarcerated.
Fellowship Highlights: 
In the past two years, Jessica has:
• Advocated for 121 children in education-related cases.
• Represented 46 children at special education meetings.
• Facilitated 26 special education evaluations.
• Filed 2 due process complaints against school districts, for violating clients’ special education rights and reached satisfactory settlement agreements in each case.
• Prevented 13 children, from being permanently expelled from school.
• Helped 52 children reenroll in school.
• Defended 11 children in juvenile delinquency proceedings.
• Collaborated with a series of other organizations and community members working in the fields of education and/or juvenile justice.
• Spearheaded the School-to-Prison Pipeline Committee of the ACLU’s Metro Detroit Local Unit and organized two Know Your Rights in School Discipline Proceedings events.
• Received a certificate in restorative practices and became a certified mediator.
Where are they now?: 
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Jessica plans to:
• Continue working with clients facing new or continued involvement with the criminal justice system.
• Join the New Jersey Office of the Public Defenders as an assistant deputy public defender.
• Support local efforts, to combat the harmful effects of the school-to-prison pipeline in Newark, NJ that may be plaguing her clients and their families.

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