Johari (he/him/his) works with formerly and currently incarcerated New Yorkers to increase voter participation and civic engagement by enforcing the new parole enfranchisement law and advocating for universal suffrage through legislative advocacy.
There are approximately 35,000 people under parole supervision in New York State. The parole system mirrors the system of mass incarceration that feeds it, disproportionately impacting people of color. Even though people of color only make up 38% of New York’s population, they make up over 50% of those in the state prison system. Part of addressing the cruelty and inequities of mass incarceration requires ensuring that those with direct criminal legal system contact are able to engage civically and build power within their communities. This starts with the fundamental right to vote, which preserves all other rights, and is the most basic building block to systemic change. Yet there is a lack of knowledge that people in New York can now vote while on parole, and barriers to voting exist for systems-impacted people.
Johari will spend his Fellowship working with people on parole to register them to vote and organize in their communities via town halls and public meetings. In addition, Johari will collect data on the implementation of S.830B, a law that requires corrections facilities to provide information and opportunity to register to vote for those entering community supervision. That data will be used to create training materials on best implementation practices for corrections officers as well as judges, defense attorneys, and district attorneys, and to support compliance litigation. Johari will also assist in drafting a bill to grant currently incarcerated New Yorkers the right to vote and provide them with the means to do so.
Mass incarceration has been a tool of inflicting civic death on those who are ensnared in its clutches, and, in particular, it has silenced people who look like me. The return of the right to vote, which is at the core of civic engagement, is necessary to shift from a paradigm of punishment to one of equity.
Johari Frasier /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Shaunita (she/her/hers) will provide direct legal services, advocacy, and outreach to Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) tenants in San Mateo County to ensure access to affordable and fair housing.
Section 8 tenants in San Mateo County are at serious risk of displacement and homelessness if they lose their housing subsidies. These tenants, who are predominately Black and Latinx, face a number of systemic barriers including arbitrary local housing authority policies, rising rents, and unlawful evictions that make it difficult for them to maintain their subsidies. Unfortunately, due to the rising cost of rent, many low-income residents can only afford to live in the county with the assistance of a housing subsidy. Section 8 tenants who lose their vouchers through evictions or termination in San Mateo are also barred from receiving assistance in other counties.
Shaunita’s experiences as a black woman from a low-income community motivate her commitment to providing holistic, specialized legal advocacy to extremely low-income households of color.
During her Fellowship, Shaunita will represent Section 8 tenants in eviction proceedings and administrative hearings related to voucher termination and changes to subsidy amounts. She will also engage with residents of subsidized housing to facilitate public comment and participation in San Mateo County’s next Assessment of Fair Housing. Additionally, she will challenge aspects of San Mateo County’s Moving to Work program that contribute to segregation of Housing Choice Vouchers in low-opportunity areas through impact litigation.
Growing up in subsidized housing, I understand that access to quality, affordable housing is a racial and economic justice issue.
Shaunita Hampton /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Tirien investigated and documented several systematic challenges to the implementation of death judgments, such as harm perpetrated by juvenile detention facilities, racially discriminatory application of the death penalty, and brain damage that can result from childhood exposure to pesticides or lead.
Lauryn works to create a systematic approach to mass exonerating people wrongly convicted based on the unreliable medico-legal diagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), along with a paradigm shift in the medical and legal communities based on the lack of evidence for the diagnosis.
Science has revealed the lack of evidence for SBS and shown the diagnosis is unreliable. Medical advances have shown there are many other causes of the findings upon which the diagnosis is based, and courts across the country have begun to reverse SBS convictions. Despite this, thousands of indigent people remain in prison without access to the legal resources necessary to challenge their wrongful convictions. While wrongful convictions in general disproportionately impact people of color, convictions based upon false SBS diagnoses are further subject to explicit and implicit biases as race and poverty are considered risk factors for abuse.
Lauryn grew up in a family that was impacted by the criminal justice system and is committed to providing a voice for those incarcerated. When she learned that SBS might be the largest cause of wrongful conviction, she became passionate about assisting those who have suffered an unimaginable double-tragedy: they lost a child. They then were wrongfully blamed for that loss and sent to prison as a result.
Fellowship Highlights to Date
In the first year of her fellowship, Lauryn has:
- Identified 105 cases that are potential wrongful SBS convictions using a systemic and strategic approach
- Connected with 60 people – 54 incarcerated, six no longer incarcerated – who would like their conviction reviewed with an emphasis on the presumption of innocence and in light of the changes in medical science. Lauryn has also obtained and reviewed trial transcripts for 26 of these people
- Begun the process of preparing thirteen cases for negotiations and litigation in collaboration with her colleagues. Lauryn has written full habeas petitions for three of these clients and is currently negotiating with experts and DA offices to solicit buy-in on seeking reversal and innocence
- Crafted a model template for challenging SBS science in post-conviction litigation for shortfall cases
- Taught a forensic science class at Santa Clara School of Law alongside her supervising attorney
In the next six months, Lauryn plans to:
- Continue to draft petitions to the court in cases where the sole evidence of guilt was medical testimony that has now been proven false
- Continue to consult with medical experts, meet with DA offices, and file petitions in court when necessary
- Continue to craft templates and sample motions for various arguments against the unreliable medical science that may be used pre-or post-conviction
I aim to empower Arab, Iranian, and other communities of color to challenge racial profiling and domestic surveillance practices, particularly those government actions arising post-9/11. This project uses a multi-faceted strategy that incorporates impact litigation, community education and coalition building in order to enhance the short-term and long-term capacity of the Impact Fund, other legal organizations and communities to challenge post-9/11 profiling.
I represent students of color who are denied equal educational opportunities through discriminatory school discipline and the over-policing of schools. In schools across California, students of color are suspended and expelled at significantly greater rates than their peers, and often are disproportionately targeted by campus police officers. In order to reduce these disparities, I conduct impact litigation and other advocacy efforts that will increase the protections afforded to students subject to discriminatory practices.
I will work to ensure that low-income workers of Marin, California receive the wages and other basic worker protections to which they are entitled and that are essential to their fair participation in the labor market. I will engage in direct client representation, supplemented by legislative reform, community education and media outreach. The ultimate goal is to actualize the deterrent effect of the presently unenforced statutory protections and to educate the workforce about their rights.
Angélica ensured that pregnant and parenting students in California’s Central Valley schools were afforded equal educational opportunities through advocacy, litigation, and organizing.
Education provides a pathway for pregnant and parenting students to a more secure future for their children and themselves. Most pregnant and parenting students want to remain in school, and federal and state laws require schools to provide these students with equal educational opportunities. In practice, however, many California schools erect institutional barriers or employ discriminatory policies that inhibit their educational outcomes, contributing to a drop-out rate of 70 percent among teen mothers. This problem is particularly acute in the Central Valley, home to eight of the 10 counties with the highest teen birth rates in the state. Most teen mothers are low-income young women of color who already face barriers to educational equity. Education offers an escape from the poverty and inequality that are rife in this region. However, when denied access to educational opportunities, teen parents are more likely to face unemployment, and their children are more likely to grow up in poverty.
During her Fellowship, Angélica has:
- Published, Breaking Down Barriers for California’s Pregnant and Parenting Students, a report that identifies a number of barriers that impact this unique population of students. The report also provides local and statewide recommendations for removing these barriers
- Partnered with California Latinas for Reproductive Justice and co-sponsored AB 302 that would ensure that lactating students in California’s K-12 system have a private, secure place to breastfeed or express milk during school
- Provided know-your-rights trainings to school administrators and students throughout California’s San Joaquin Valley
- Engaged in local advocacy to ensure that school districts have up-to-date board policies and administrative regulations
Where are they now?
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Angélica remains at the ACLU of Northern California as a Staff Attorney, protecting the civil rights and civil liberties of communities throughout the San Joaquin Valley.