Allison Elder

  • Hosted by Root & Rebound
  • 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 represented and advocated for South Carolinians who faced 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 addressed 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.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Allison:

  • Worked with almost 200 clients over two years
  • Provided services ranging from brief advice and counsel to full court or parole representation, resulting in early release for two individuals
  • Increased access to children for at least six court-clients, and decreased child support arrearages or modified payments for at least seven other clients whose debt grew during incarceration
  • Cleaned clients’ records to the extent possible under South Carolina law, providing them and their families with better employment and housing opportunities
  • Worked with partner organizations and a child psychologist to take the lead on an amicus brief regarding automatic waiver of juveniles to adult court, which was filed in a South Carolina Supreme Court case

Next Steps

Allison will remain at Root & Rebound in the Greenville office as a Staff Attorney, where she will continue to push for meaningful release and reunification opportunities for South Carolina families impacted by incarceration. Her role will shift towards more impact litigation and advocacy work, with a particular focus on ending extreme sentencing, including of juveniles, and improving conditions for incarcerated individuals. She will also be leading Root & Rebound’s South Carolina Parole Project.


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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