Henrissa Bassey

  • Hosted by Bay Area Legal Aid
  • Sponsored by The Morrison & Foerster Foundation
  • Service location Oakland, California
  • Law school American University Washington College of Law
  • Issue area Children/Youth
  • Fellowship class year 2016
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Henrissa advocated for formerly incarcerated youth with disabilities by providing trauma-informed, civil legal representation, training probation officers and community-based providers on best practices when serving youth with disabilities, and supporting youth-led advocacy.

Juvenile confinement and its associated adverse social and educational impacts disparately affect youth of color and youth with disabilities. At 27 percent, Contra Costa County’s youth confinement rate is much higher than the state average of 18 percent. Yet probation departments struggle to connect delinquency-involved youth, particularly those with disabilities, to family settings and to comprehensive, trauma-informed services and supports.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Henrissa has:

  • Provided wide-ranging legal advice and representation (including reentry, benefits and housing eligibility, extension of benefits, and unlawful detainer) to 114 formerly incarcerated at-risk youth;
  • Successfully re-entered numerous formerly incarcerated and at-risk youth with mental health issues into foster care;
  • Secured SSI screenings and CalFresh/Medi-Cal benefits for clients;
  • Secured Medi-Cal-funded specialty mental health services for delinquency-involved youth;
  • Conducted weekly legal clinics at a local youth homeless shelter;
  • Presented to a group of over 50 partners, including the County Assistant Chief of probation, San Pablo Police Department, County Public Defender’s Office, and community-based organizations on key issues affecting youth with disabilities in the juvenile justice system;
  • Working alongside youth leaders, founded and built out Young Leaders Igniting the Fight for Equity (Y-LIFE), a youth-led advocacy group designed to integrate the perspectives of systems-affected youth into the practices and policies of local decision-makers and youth-service providers;
  • Applied for and received a grant to fund the work of Y-LIFE and pay its members a competitive stipend.

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Henrissa plans to:

  • Distribute Y-LIFE’s “Navigating Your Success” toolkit to community partners and incarcerated youth;
  • Continue to support the advocacy efforts of Y-LIFE and other youth-led advocacy efforts;
  • Work to prevent homelessness by representing clients during eviction proceedings and helping clients with disabilities secure reasonable accommodations to preserve their housing.

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Lauren Zack

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