Phoenix Rice-Johnson

The Project

Phoenix (she/her/hers) provides civil-legal reentry support to victims of domestic violence and other trauma survivors who are released from incarceration due to a reduced sentence under New York’s recently enacted Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act.

Approximately half of people released from prison in New York State end up in homeless shelters. Many formerly incarcerated individuals face housing and employment discrimination due to their criminal records, which exacerbates their challenges with homelessness and unemployment. And individuals leaving prison often lack any government ID, which makes obtaining benefits like food stamps and social security disability insurance nearly impossible. Phoenix aims to support survivors of domestic violence navigate these challenges by providing them with legal reentry support.

Fellowship Plans

Phoenix aims to support survivors of domestic violence with their reentry needs so that they can reunite with their communities, avoid reincarceration, and end the cycle of trauma and criminalization that affects so many. Her Fellowship involves three components: providing direct civil legal services to individual clients (e.g. assisting clients in appealing denials of government benefits); drafting a guide on best practices for trauma-informed lawyering and reentry support for survivors of trauma; and building relationships with other reentry organizations to better connect clients to the services they need.

My sister has been directly impacted by the dual harms of domestic violence and incarceration. Witnessing her struggle and her strength is what inspired me to support other individuals navigating the reentry process.

Phoenix Rice-Johnson /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Over 200,000 immigrants are detained throughout the U.S. each year. The majority lack access to counsel. Talia’s project focused on providing and expanding access to legal counsel for detained immigrants in the Los Angeles area. In order to achieve this aim, Talia taught a legal orientation class to immigration detainees, provided individual consults for people who lack representation, and identified those with meritorious claims for relief. Additionally, she provided direct representation as well as facilitated representation by pro bono counsel.

Media

Deported veteran finally returns home after nearly 20 years

The Project

The goal of my project is to empower survivors of domestic violence to transition out of dependency and victimization through better access to civil restitution, employment opportunities, and public benefits. My project will include litigation and advocacy components focused on expanding the use of monetary remedies in civil protection orders, enforcing the rights of survivors in the workplace, and ensuring access to appropriate public benefits.

The Inspiration

The Project

Claire employed a combination of community outreach and direct services representation with a focus on affirmative litigation in the area of consumer law as it intersects with Bay Legal’s domestic violence survivor client population. Claire complemented Bay Legal’s housing law and family law substantive practice areas with a focus on remedying fraudulent consumer lending transactions that result from financial abuse and separating community property debt at the time our clients separate from an abuser.

The Project

Drake enforced the right of low-wage workers to receive unemployment insurance after a job loss in the District of Columbia. Additionally, Drake advocated with the client community for effective implementation of recent changes in D.C. law to benefit low-income claimants.

Successful public interest lawyering requires collaborative client relationships and a dedication to our clients' goals both inside and outside the legal system.

Drake Hagner /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Kristin helped African and Middle Eastern immigrant women and girls fleeing gender-based violence to obtain lawful immigration status so they could begin to rebuild their lives. Houston is now the most diverse city in America. Due to its proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border, international airports, interstate highways, and an international seaport, Houston is a hub for immigration and, unfortunately, human trafficking. African and Middle Eastern women fleeing violence are particularly vulnerable because no local service provider targets their population.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Kristin:

  • Provided brief service, advice, and referrals to 49 clients
  • Represented 85 women and children in affirmative and defensive asylum cases and in applications for T visas, U visas, and relief under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
  • Trained more than 50 pro bono attorneys to serve as co-counsel in gender-based asylum, VAWA, T visa, and U visa cases
  • Developed training manuals around gender-based asylum and how to represent human trafficking victims in T visa applications
  • Educated 300 Houston-based attorneys and paralegals at BP’s annual staff retreat about the needs of African and Middle Eastern immigrant women fleeing gender-based violence
  • Co-presented CLE workshops at BP headquarters and Arnold & Porter’s Houston office
  • Led a BP-Tahirih clinic where seven BP attorneys and five BP paralegals spent a
  • Saturday morning completing green card applications for ten Tahirih clients
  • Helped establish Tahirih Justice Center as a go-to resource for African and Middle Eastern women and girls fleeing gender-based violence

Next Steps

Kristin is continuing her career in immigration law as an attorney advisor at the San Francisco Immigration Court, a position within the Department of Justice Honors Program.

The Project

Thayer advocated for school safety, mental health services, and special education for bullying victims in DC public schools through outreach, training, mentoring, policy reform, and direct representation.

Bullying is a widespread problem among youth, disproportionately affecting children with special needs, language minority children, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. Studies have shown that bullying is linked to long-term negative outcomes, including increased rates of suicide, decreased academic achievement, school absences, and poor physical and mental health. By law, DC public schools are required to provide a safe learning environment for each student. However, without legal assistance, low-income parents must interpret the patchwork of relevant laws alone. This project addresses the issue of bullying by providing legal advocacy and direct representation to parents of bullying victims to ensure school safety and access to mental health and special education services.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Thayer has:

  • Directly represented 53 families in cases that involve bullying, special education, mental health, and public benefits
  • Provided brief advice, brief services, legal and non-legal referrals and other information to 73 individuals in matters ranging from special education, bullying, and mental health law to housing, public benefits, and custody
  • Provided trainings to parents, pediatricians, mental health providers, judges, and other attorneys on bullying and other areas of law that frequently affect our clients in the District of Columbia
  • Served as a member of the District of Columbia Youth Bullying Prevention Task Force
  • Partnered with local organizations to improve knowledge of bullying laws in the District of Columbia
  • Advocated for improved regulations regarding bullying in the District of Columbia

The Project

Natasha worked to reform zoning ordinances to reduce barriers to affordable housing and green space in Southeast Los Angeles through community education, technical assistance, and policy advocacy.

In the historically low-income Southeast Cities of Los Angeles (Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Maywood, Huntington Park and South Gate) poverty rates in all but one city reach over 25%, far above the state average. With Los Angeles as the nation’s homeless capital, and over 2,400 homeless individuals in the Southeast Cities alone, residents struggle to find decent, stable housing. Even families that find housing face a lack of green space, one of the most crucial parts of a healthy community. In the Southeast, where concrete is more common than green space, a small cramped apartment is the only playground many children have. As a result, each of the cities has a childhood obesity rate greater than 28%, among the highest in the County. Through education, technical assistance, and advocacy, Natasha’s project will use zoning reform in the Southeast Cities to remove these historic barriers to affordable housing and green space, fostering healthier and more stable communities.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Natasha has:

  • Successfully advocated for zoning ordinances addressing state mandates on emergency shelters, supportive housing and transitional housing in three cities
  • Successfully advocated for zoning ordinance reflecting recently enacted affordable housing statute in one target city
  • Successfully advocated for a countywide strategy to facilitate local implementation of state mandates requiring cities to remove zoning barriers to emergency shelter, transitional housing, and supportive housing development
  • Partnered with local organizations to create a professionally engraved painted play space for toddlers in a Southeast park

Next Steps

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Natasha plans to continue in the field of community economic development to advocate for institutional change in under-resourced communities