Emmy Williams

  • Hosted by Georgia Justice Project
  • Sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP, UPS, Inc.
  • Service location Atlanta, Georgia
  • Law school Harvard Law School
  • Issue area Community/Economic Development, Criminal Justice Reform
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Emmy works to enforce and improve Georgia’s occupational licensure laws, expand access to licensed employment, and reduce the collateral impacts of mass incarceration by representing clients with criminal records, advocating for licensing policy change, and educating licensed workers about their rights.

By virtue of having a criminal record, more than one-third of Georgia residents face serious barriers to government-licensed professions, despite a recent state law requiring otherwise. In Georgia, roughly 40% of common low-income professions are licensed, and 14% of workers overall need a license to work. Access to stable employment is key to economic empowerment, successful reentry, and reducing the collateral consequences of a criminal record. The barriers of a criminal record to gainful employment are most harshly felt by over-policed Black and brown communities in Georgia, as well as low-income Georgians.

As a Southerner, Emmy feels strongly about opposing injustice in her home region, especially the consequences of the racially oppressive and unjust criminal legal system. She is thankful to Georgia Justice Project for sharing these values and is thrilled to work with Georgians with criminal records to expand access to employment and economic stability for all Georgians.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

During the first year of the Fellowship, Emmy has:

  • Providing full representation to 20 clients, including representing more than 10 individuals on their licensing matters
  • Provided legal advice and referrals to over 110 individuals on their occupational licensing and/or criminal records matters
  • Through presentations and dissemination of flyers, educated directly impacted people with criminal records on their rights in the licensing process and common barriers to licensed professions
  • Researched occupational licensing policy reforms; surveyed client experiences to identify barriers in the application, revocation, and appeal processes; and developed a list of needed reforms in Georgia licensing law
  • Collaborating with six groups to increase the reach and impact of the project

Next Steps

In the next year, Emmy plans to:

  • Continue representing clients seeking occupational licenses
  • Advance specific policy goals to increase access to occupational licensing for people with criminal records
  • Deepen connections with licensing boards to gather data and understand internal policies about criminal records
  • Engage sponsors on pro bono participation to expand project impact

Media

Criminal justice reform efforts in Georgia Legislature collide with back-the-blue mood

As I serve clients at Georgia Justice Project who face irrational, unjust barriers to employment, stability, and reentry, I hope to amplify their voices and stories as examples of those fighting for change and justice in Georgia and across the South.

Emmy Williams /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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