Photo of Roz Dillon

Roz Dillon

  • Hosted by Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law
  • Sponsored by The Lavan Harris Family
  • Service location Chicago, Illinois
  • Law school Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
  • Issue area Prisoners' Rights, Racial Justice
  • Fellowship class year 2021
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Roz (she/her/hers) will aim to dismantle arbitrary procedural barriers that derail prisoners’ civil rights actions through federal appeals attacking such barriers, amicus coalitions, and education for prisoners.

The United States leads the world in incarcerations with 2.3 million people behind bars. The brutalities of mass incarceration are well documented, including the psychological torture of solitary confinement, rampant sexual and other violence, and the shocking indifference of prison officials to the well-being of prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prisoners who have suffered such harm deserve justice. The problem is, decades ago Congress enacted a poorly drafted statute, the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), which obstructs prisoners’ access to the courts. Perhaps the greatest of the PLRA’s barriers is the exhaustion provision: if a prisoner fails to comply precisely with its often purposefully complicated requirements, his or her right to sue is lost forever, no matter how horrific the civil rights abuse.

Roz’s experience working alongside prisoners in law school opened her eyes to the unspeakable horrors they face daily and motivates her commitment to building a legal landscape where they can successfully seek justice for those horrors.

Fellowship Plans 

Roz will litigate federal appeals across the country on behalf of prisoners whose civil rights lawsuits have been thrown out because of the PLRA’s exhaustion requirement to create a more favorable law. Additionally, she will develop a coalition of diverse actors to co-write amicus briefs in order to persuade judges to change the way that they approach exhaustion cases. Finally, she will teach prisoners about strategies to avoid common exhaustion pitfalls through an educational program at an Illinois prison.

I am driven by the fundamental truth that prisoners are people, and that all people, no matter what they have done, deserve to be treated humanely and with dignity.

Roz Dillon /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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