Jack Saletta

The Project

In order to promote community safety and disrupt the cyclical nature of incarceration, Jack (he/him/his) will work to expand the use of restorative justice practices as an alternative to incarceration for young people in Chicago accused of committing violent crimes.

Chicago is a city gripped by a cycle of violence rooted in a history of segregation and community divestment. Residents in the city’s most neglected neighborhoods are subject not only to a disproportionate amount of violence, but also a disproportionate amount of harm by our legal system. One neighborhood, North Lawndale, suffers from a rate of violence that is three times the city’s average and despite a population of just 35,000, North Lawndale residents account for 12% of the state’s prisoners.

Located in the neighborhood, Lawndale Christian Legal Center (LCLC), provides holistic defense for North Lawndale juveniles and young adults accused of felonies. At the heart of LCLC’s mission is a belief in the power of community.  LCLC is committed to using restorative justice practices to repair harm and build a healthier and safer community through their clients.

Jack’s experience working in Chicago’s underserved communities motivates his commitment to fight for a system that addresses the root causes of community violence.

Fellowship Plans

During his Fellowship, Jack will build on the work of LCLC by representing clients and advocating for cases to be diverted to restorative justice solutions that will be directed by highly-skilled practitioners. Additionally, he will focus on raising awareness amongst community stakeholders about the efficacy of restorative justice as a more productive way to address community violence.

Our legal system conflates punishment with accountability and destroys lives in the process. I am committed to working for a system that seeks to eliminate, rather than perpetuate, harm by recognizing the humanity of all people.

Jack Saletta /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Will advised and represented low-income families to remedy violations found by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) of Chicago Public School’s (CPS) widespread delay and denial of special education services to potentially thousands of children with disabilities.

ISBE found that CPS implemented policies and procedures that systemically delayed or denied services to potentially thousands of students with disabilities. There are over 52,000 children with disabilities enrolled in CPS, many of whom were harmed by procedural violations that were designed to cut $29 million in special education funding. Will’s project identified those students who were harmed, ensured they receive the services to which they are entitled, and created supports to ensure that students have access to the services they deserve in the future.

Fellowship Plans

During the two-year Fellowship, Will:

  • Attained a leadership position with the Special Education Advocacy Coalition of Chicago (SPEACC), the group that brought the CPS violations to ISBE. He worked with CPS, ISBE, and other advocates to develop a remedial system that will automatically provide compensatory services to 10,515 students.
  • Established a CPS Public Inquiry Hotline that provided free legal advice and information about what CPS did and whether their child might be eligible for extra services to nearly one hundred families.
  • Developed numerous fact sheets to help spread awareness and information about CPS’s violations and presented webinars to parents/guardians on special education law generally, CPS’s violations specifically, and students’ special education rights during Covid-related school closures.
  • Successfully advocated the ISBE Board extend their monitoring/oversight of CPS due to their violations.

Next Steps

Will plans to continue practicing special education law in Chicago and representing students with disabilities. He will remain involved with SPEACC and will continue serving as an advocate for students who were harmed by CPS.

Media

Chicago’s special education department will be monitored for another year

Chicago parents could have more time to file special education complaints

Chicago Public Schools To Compensate Special Ed Students Illegally Denied Services

CPS Offers Millions in Added Support for Special Ed Students Illegally Denied Services

I have seen how vital these services can be, and as a result, I am best suited to ensure that students within CPS have the same opportunities as those living elsewhere.

William Hrabe /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Aimee represented students with disabilities who are required to participate in court diversion programs (court-diverted students) to address their educational needs in order to prevent school exclusion, increase academic achievement, and decrease recidivism.

Students with disabilities are disproportionately involved in the juvenile justice system and are in critical need of representation to obtain the educational services necessary to prevent recidivism. Student suspensions often lead to expulsions and court referrals, so it is particularly alarming that Chicago Public Schools suspended 42 percent of all students with disabilities at least once in 2010, as compared to the national rate of 13 percent. It is also troubling that there were 11,225 school-based arrests in Chicago from 2009-2010 because students with disabilities are more likely to become involved in the juvenile justice system when they are suspended, expelled, or arrested. Intervention is critical at the early juncture when students with disabilities are diverted from court so as to ensure they receive the educational supports they need to remain in school and out of the court system.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Aimee has:

  • Provided 220 families of students with disabilities and others calling on their behalf with self-advocacy assistance or direct legal representation to prevent expulsions; place students in their appropriate least restrictive environments; evaluate students’ eligibility for special education services; and create appropriate Individualized Education Programs, 504 Plans, and Behavior Intervention Plans
  • Shared information with 347 attendees at 16 outreach events on her project and the special education rights of court-diverted students with disabilities
  • Trained 312 attorneys, paralegals, probation officers, mental health professionals, disability and educational advocates, community service providers, and teachers at 16 training events focused on the special education rights of students with disabilities involved in school-based discipline incidents

Where are they now?

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Aimee continues to work at Equip for Equality’s Special Education Clinic, ensuring that all students have access to the educational opportunities they need to succeed.

The Project

Alexandra advocated for young mothers whose interaction with the criminal justice system threatens their mother-child bonds, addressing the cycle of incarceration, foster care, and violence for young women.

When young mothers enter prison, they are very likely to have already experienced domestic violence, been a part of the foster care system, or witnessed the incarceration of a parent. Additionally, over half of all women who enter prison are mothers, the majority of whom are also the sole caretaker for their child or children. Due to strains on the parent-child relationship during incarceration, as well as a lack of resources, 14,000 children with an incarcerated parent enter foster care yearly. Because of their age, young mothers are uniquely positioned to respond positively to legal and social interventions. Alexandra’s project aims to provide targeted legal services to young mothers to help stabilize young families.

Fellowship Highlights

During Alexandra’s Fellowship, Alexandra:

  • Developed a system of referral from existing Cabrini Green Legal Aid clients to identify young mothers
  • Created case acceptance criteria and begin accepting cases for direct representation
  • Created a pamphlet of services the project offers and distribute it to low-income legal service providers, probation departments, diversion programs, and social service organizations
  • Created guides for currently incarcerated and recently released young parents to inform them of legal rights and remedies
  • Reached out to prison facilities to establish systems of referral

The Project

Hilary increased identification and protection of immigrant survivors of human trafficking by training service providers, providing legal representation, and expanding access to counsel.

Due to increased immigration enforcement and detention, many undocumented trafficking survivors become ensnared in complex legal proceedings with seemingly insurmountable barriers to accessing justice, including no right to appointed counsel, finite legal knowledge and limited, if any, English. Yet, the greatest challenge most survivors face is that their suffering remains unrecognized. The failure to self-identify and fear of disclosing their trauma creates obstacles to identifying survivors. If unidentified, survivors are at risk of being re-trafficked or deported.

Fellowship Highlights

Hilary collaborated with Aon and Kirkland & Ellis to launch a T visa pro bono project, which increased access to counsel for undocumented trafficking survivors. She coordinated the exit of a survivor of labor-trafficking who had been held captive for over 14 years, and gained immigration status for a survivor of sex trafficking who had been wrongly identified as a perpetrator of crime and detained for over 26 months. Hilary increased the National Immigrant Justice Center’s capacity to identify and represent trafficking survivors, and published an article on “Sex Trafficking and Domestic Violence in the American Bar Association’s Third Edition of The Impact of Domestic Violence on Your Legal Practice.

What’s Next

After her Fellowship, Hilary will be joining the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services, where she will represent survivors of trafficking and immigrant victims of crime in the full scope of their legal matters, including immigration, family, criminal and civil law. Legal Aid Society is a leader in the anti-trafficking field and works with pro bono attorneys to file T visa cases and represent clients in federal civil suits against their traffickers.