Alejandra Gutierrez

The Project

Alejandra (she/her/hers) will advocate for youth funneled into the juvenile justice system in a racially disparate manner by changing systemic responses from punitive to a public health, community-centered approach.

Each year, approximately 40,000 youth are arrested in California. The current punitive response has created alarming racial disparities and perpetuated cycles of incarceration, impacting the lives of our most vulnerable children and youth. In particular, youth living in the Central Valley and Inland Empire regions are excessively and disproportionately policed, criminalized, and punished. Groundbreaking juvenile justice laws recently enacted in California are not implemented effectively or with fidelity in local jurisdictions, resulting in children and youth being unlawfully cast into the juvenile justice system.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Alejandra will partner with youth, community-based leaders, and criminal justice stakeholders to shift systemic responses in line with the current transformative era in juvenile justice in California. She will provide legal training and technical assistance to local courts, system administrators, and service providers to support implementation of new laws. She will facilitate strategy development with youth and community-based organizations on policy implementation, coalition-building, resource-allocation, and bolstering the direct legal representation of youth. Her project will ensure that safeguards are put in place to protect the rights of youth and help them move toward a brighter future.

Media

Morrison & Foerster Partners With Equal Justice Works To Support Recent Law School Graduates With A Passion For Public Service

The young people I have worked alongside showed me they are intelligent, creative, and have the ability to grow into powerful leaders for social change. By protecting them, we will help them live their full potential, transform our communities, and create healing opportunities for all the future generations to come.

Alejandra Gutierrez /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Ameil (he/him/his) will fight for actualized student potential in the classroom by combatting exclusionary discipline policies at the individual and systemic levels in the return to in-person learning era of Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

Black and Brown students were six times more likely to be expelled or suspended than their White, CPS peers. Among these exclusions, charter schools were responsible for 19 of the top 20 expulsion rates in CPS in 2018. This was happening before COVID-19 laid bare disparities for CPS and low-income students, particularly students of color. Because of the substantial learning equity issues raised during the remote learning period, many CPS schools may feel pressure to ‘play catch-up’ through harsh policies meant to cut down on distractions. Return to in-person learning cannot be a return to business-as-usual practices with exclusionary discipline, and specifically within charter schools, which have more autonomy to practice punitive measures.

Ameil taught U.S. History and English on the Westside of Chicago at a public charter school for four years. He also served as a four-year advisor to a male advisory and coached the boys’ soccer team.

Fellowship Plans

Ameil will represent students directly, working with community and legal organizations to gain a stronger understanding of the post-COVID-19 landscape in learning and disciplinary policies. Additionally, he will conduct Know Your Rights trainings for families, engage in policy advocacy, and potentially bring complaints of widespread rights violations to state and federal government oversight bodies.

Media

Combatting Exclusionary Disciplinary Policies Towards Students

The Project

Lauren provides legal services to Bay Area residents harmed by encounters with the police through direct representation, community outreach, and impact litigation to defund the police and reinvest in communities.

Black and Latino communities are subject to constant low-level policing. This results in frequent encounters with officers, who then leverage their power in traffic, infraction, and other enforcement of laws that criminalize ordinary human behavior. All of these police encounters can lead to lifelong health consequences such as PTSD and asthma, the exacerbation of existing mental illnesses, trauma in Black communities, criminal punishment of the police’s victims, and interruption of employment and childcare. A gap in legal services exists when it comes to representing these kinds of injuries, leaving community members with the understanding that they must endure their injuries without redress.

Lauren’s Mexican-American upbringing and pre-law school work with incredible students of color in New York City motivate her commitment to racial justice.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the past year, Lauren has:

  • Founded and opened The People’s Clinic, which provides legal support to people who have been harmed by encounters with the police and other law enforcement agencies
  • Met with over 30 clients, drafted 15 government tort claims, and helped file two small claims actions against police departments in Northern California
  • Hosted a webinar for attorneys and activists about policing and surveillance in Northern California
  • Managed client contact and interviews for an investigation into a California city’s police department
  • Drafted portions of a complaint and subsequent motions for NAACP of San Jose/Silicon Valley v. City of San Jose challenging the city’s response to protestors during 2020 uprisings against police violence

Next Steps

In the next year, Lauren plans to:

  • Continue running and expanding the reach of The People’s Clinic
  • Continue providing legal support to current The People’s Clinic clients
  • Draft portions of future motions for NAACP of San Jose/Silicon Valley v. City of San Jose and assist in discovery process
  • Draft sections of the report on a Bay Area city’s housing authority police department
  • Support investigation into a California city’s police department’s policies and practices
  • Engage with communities in Northern California to learn about their experiences with police and how LCCRSF can provide support

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

The Project

Through a variety of educational programs, including walk-in clinics and workshops, Kristi helped their clients understand the social services and legal issues they are facing before they have the need for actual legal representation. Kristi worked with community leaders to target the specific needs of the community through GIS mapping and discussion. Kristi developed a weekly youth program to educate youth on their rights as well as provide a safe, nurturing after-school environment.

The Project

Immigrant families increasingly face the chilling prospect of detention or deportation of a loved one. ICE raids have destroyed the lives of many immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for decades. The worst consequences of this nightmare can be avoided. Many detainees are eligible for permanent immigration relief. Through know-your-rights presentations and legal representation, the project focused on reuniting families, preventing unnecessary detentions and arrests, and educating the detained population about their rights.

The Project

Rebeca assisted low-income residents of Orange County with family law issues. Rebeca’s cases involved domestic violence prevention, dissolutions, paternities, custody and visitation, guardianships and limited conservatorships. While working at The Family Law Project, Rebeca provided direct legal services and community clinics, collaborated with community organizations and facilitated pro bono case placements.

The Project

Each year the U.S. detains unaccompanied immigrant children who have to navigate a complex immigration system without the benefit of counsel. I will develop a legal orientation curriculum and attorney toolkit to empower advocates to meet the unique needs of this population. I will produce specialized legal orientation scripts with visual aids, a workbook designed to enhance comprehension of important legal information, materials to help advocates overcome the challenges of rapport-building, and an online toolkit for attorneys who represent children in court.

The Inspiration

The Project

ProBAR has been committed to providing legal services to immigrants in Texas with a focus on asylum seekers. My project allows ProBAR to expand its legal assistance program to include one of the largest detention facilities in the United States – the Willacy County Processing Center – often referred to as the “Tent City.” I am providing legal services to the largely unrepresented immigrant population at the facility, including “know your rights” presentations, pro se assistance, connecting asylum seekers with pro bono counsel and direct representation.

The Inspiration