Allison Elder

  • Hosted by Root & Rebound Reentry Advocates
  • Sponsored by The Leonard & Robert Weintraub Family Foundation
  • Service location Greenville, South Carolina
  • Law school Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
  • Issue area Criminal Justice Reform
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Allison advocates for South Carolinians who face legal barriers to family reunification arising from their criminal record or incarceration.

South Carolinians returning from prison and jail face more than 1,700 legal barriers to successful reentry and are especially unlikely to be represented in these matters due to the incredibly low number of civil legal aid attorneys in the state. Allison’s project addresses the reality that most system-involved individuals are parents and that records-based housing, employment discrimination, debt accrued during incarceration, and barriers to family visitation in prison, all can prolong family separation even after the end of a carceral sentence.

Every incredible client Allison has worked with, from the incarcerated moms she worked with as a legal intern to her clinic clients at Northwestern, has motivated her to continue working for families impacted by the racist criminal legal system.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the past year, Allison has:

  • Provided direct services to approximately 100 clients
  • Increased three formerly incarcerated parents’ access to their children
  • Decreased the child support arrears payments, or established an easier pay structure, for three formerly incarcerated parents that struggle financially
  • Prevented three parents from being reincarcerated for failure to pay child support
  • Represented an incarcerated father in his parole hearing, and advised approximately 10 incarcerated parents regarding family law matters
  • Presented in four trainings with community partners, including a presentation on the intersection between housing instability, the criminal legal system, and the child welfare system, and a presentation on barriers to successful reentry in South Carolina
  • Began to build a coalition around child support reform for incarcerated parents in South Carolina, which included drafting an informational letter, and discussing the issue with various stakeholders

Next Steps

In the next year, Allison plans to:

  • Design and present a family law know-your-rights course for incarcerated individuals
  • Represent at least five more clients in family court, while continuing her ongoing litigation
  • Continue legislative education regarding the negative impact on families of child support debt accrual during parental incarceration


SC experts worry pandemic will hurt custody for unemployed parents

As a mom myself, I cannot imagine anything worse than being separated from my son. Incarceration rips families apart—reentry should bring them back together.

Allison Elder /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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