Photo of Bailey Strelow

Billy Strelow

  • Hosted by Root & Rebound
  • Sponsored by The Clorox Company Foundation
  • Service location Oakland, California
  • Law school New York University School of Law
  • Issue area Criminal Justice Reform
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Billy (they/them) worked to ensure equal access to housing and employment for BIPOC people with criminal records in Oakland through direct legal services, community education, and systems-change efforts.

Ensuring equal opportunities in housing and employment for the one in three Californians with a criminal record addresses a concrete effect of mass incarceration and criminalization of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people. Black individuals in particular are five times more likely to have a record than white individuals, reflecting the disproportionate rate at which Black individuals, especially Black men, are arrested and incarcerated. Having a record seriously damages a Black person’s chances at having stable housing and employment. Black job seekers are 50% more likely than their white counterparts to have their record used against them. In Oakland, 73% of homeless people have criminal records.

Billy committed to public interest since applying to law school, and saw the harmful effects of criminal record discrimination within their own family. Billy brings this experience with them in their fight for a more just legal system.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Billy:

  • Helped dismiss a total of 45 convictions from 12 clients’ records
  • Provided brief services, advice and/or referrals to approximately 270 individuals
  • Made their first two appearances before a judge, one while successfully representing a client during their record cleaning hearing and the other successfully representing a client before an administrative law judge to remove a probation block on the client’s Registered Nursing license
  • Assisted a client with moving to another state while on parole to be with family and have a roof over their head, and again when the client had to go back to California
  • Helped organize three clinics where volunteers wrote drafts of declarations for record cleaning, which served approximately 40 individuals
  • Wrote memos on “crime-free” housing ordinances and what legal claims may be viable, which the Root & Rebound litigation team will continue to use as they determine whether file suit against municipalities with such an ordinance
  • Delivered virtual community education presentations, including one on the legal rights of people with criminal records in employment and housing for a program where individuals with records learn how to start their own business

Next Steps

Billy will be moving to British Columbia, Canada and plans to continue to devote their time supporting underserved communities, whether it be providing information and fact-checking, advocating for policy change, or other efforts.


Clorox supports legal advocacy in service of racial justice

While fighting institutional racism must take place on many fronts, I am inspired by Root & Rebound’s mission to stand with people trying to rebuild their lives after prison and to address the direct consequences of the prison industrial complex.

Billy Strelow /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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