Photo of Bailey Strelow

Billy Strelow

  • Hosted by Root & Rebound Reentry Advocates
  • Sponsored by The Clorox Company
  • 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 works 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.

Creating 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. This reflects the disproportionate rate at which Black individuals, especially Black men, are arrested and incarcerated. Having a record seriously damages a Black person’s chances of having stable housing and employment. Black job seekers are 50% more likely than their white counterparts to have their records used against them. In Oakland, 73% of homeless people have criminal records. While California has made some strides in banning discrimination against people with criminal records, enforcement is sorely lacking.

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

Fellowship Highlights to Date

During the first year of the Fellowship, Billy has:

  • Helped dismiss a total of 29 convictions from 10 clients’ records, and provided legal advice to 70 individuals total
  • Filed a complaint with the Department of Fair Housing and Employment for a client who was wrongfully terminated because of an old conviction
  • Made their first court appearance representing a client during their record cleaning hearing where their convictions and remaining fees were dismissed
  • Began to explore potential impact litigation related to discriminatory housing ordinances
  • Presented on employment and housing issues to individuals on lifelong parole taking part in an entrepreneurial program
  • Conducted a housing clinic with the Clorox Company

Next Steps

In the next year, Billy plans to:

  • Make materials and give a presentation to landlords/employers on their legal obligations to applicants
  • Organize collaborations with service providers to improve online information about background checks
  • Continue researching “crime-free” and nuisance ordinances that are harming BIPOC communities around California and helping advance future litigation challenging one of these ordinances
  • Work with pro bono attorneys to provide at least one free legal clinic to impacted people in Oakland with a focus on employment and housing issues
  • Continue to assist between two to six people who call Root & Rebound’s Friday hotline each week

Media

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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