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Jessica Wang

  • Hosted by Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center
  • Sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP
  • Service location Chicago, Illinois
  • Law school Georgetown University Law Center
  • Issue area Civil Rights/Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice Reform
  • Fellowship class year 2024
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Jessica (she/her/hers) will enforce the Pretrial Fairness Act, which eliminated money bond in Illinois, through impact litigation, legal advocacy, and education to significantly reduce the number of people detained and subjected to electronic monitoring while awaiting trial in Illinois, especially those who are Black, brown, and/or low-income.

Illinois’s new Pretrial Fairness Act (PFA) establishes a system of presumptive pretrial release that eliminates money bond and aims to significantly reduce pretrial detention and electronic monitoring (EM). Courts are undermining the PFA by imposing harmful alternatives to money bond, presenting an urgent opportunity to ensure pretrial freedom in Illinois.

Pretrial detention/EM devastates people’s lives, impeding their ability to maintain employment, secure housing, and preserve community ties. Jessica’s project, which aims to enforce the PFA, is especially important given Illinois’s chronically under-resourced public defense offices, which need support to challenge unlawful detention/EM orders.

As a former Illinois resident, Jessica has witnessed local organizers, supported by movement lawyers, achieve monumental wins to protect their communities from the trauma of the carceral system. Inspired by their advocacy, Jessica’s project unites her passions for working directly with criminalized individuals and supporting grassroots movements in Illinois.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Jessica will draft template motions that defense attorneys can use to challenge unlawful detention/EM orders, as well as co-counsel strategic appeals of unlawful detention/EM orders alongside MacArthur’s public defense partners. Jessica will also support the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice’s (INPJ) court-watching and gather data regarding Illinois pretrial detention/EM practices. If necessary, Jessica will help build a civil lawsuit to compel a resistant jurisdiction’s PFA compliance and establish precedent benefitting all Illinoisans subject to pretrial detention/EM. Finally, with INPJ partners, Jessica will educate systemic stakeholders about their PFA obligations, conduct community know-your-rights trainings, and author a public report and/or op-eds about the PFA’s implementation.

I am excited to further the campaign for pretrial fairness, which I have admired since its inception. Returning to Chicago and enforcing historic reforms will fulfill my dream of becoming a local movement lawyer in the fight against carceral violence.

Jessica Wang /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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