Sarah True

The Project

Sarah (she/her/hers) provides legal services to people with conviction records who have been denied employment opportunities and works to develop fair, objective criteria for assessing job applicants’ conviction history.

In California, there are 8 million people with a criminal conviction. Thousands of people across the state have lost their jobs or occupational licenses due to their conviction or have been rejected from potential employment because of their criminal record. In 2017, California enacted The Fair Chance Act (FCA), which prohibits employers of more than five employees from asking about an applicant’s conviction history on job applications. Sarah’s project will enforce the FCA and strengthen its application through scalable and research-based criteria for employers making individualized assessments.

Fellowship Plans

Sarah will represent individuals with FCA violation claims in administrative hearings and state court. In collaboration with her clients, other directly impacted people, researchers in the field, and experts in employment law, Sarah will develop metrics for evaluating a job applicant’s conviction record. She will advocate for the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing to adopt regulations using these metrics, aiming to have a statewide impact in effectively implementing this law.

By strengthening and enforcing the requirements of the Fair Chance Act, California has the opportunity to meaningfully disrupt cycles of recidivism, shrink the size of our carceral system, and serve as a model for ban-the-box laws in other states.

Sarah True /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Maya (she/her/hers) investigates and assists with affirmative litigation to vindicate the rights of people experiencing human rights abuses in Georgia prisons and jails, and work on community-based non-litigation approaches to these harms.

Georgia has one of the highest rates of incarceration in the United States. Conditions of confinement in many of Georgia’s jails and prisons have deteriorated since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic such that incarcerated people are experiencing violations of their human rights. Black and Latine Georgians are overrepresented in Georgia’s prisons and jails, and therefore more likely to be impacted by the significant decline in conditions of confinement that incarcerated people are experiencing.

Maya’s time as an investigator working on advocacy and litigation around criminal courts in the South drives her commitment to open courts, which are an essential step toward empowering communities to enact change in local criminal legal systems. She is passionate about challenging injustices at the intersection of race and poverty in the criminal legal system.

Fellowship Plans

Maya will work with attorneys and investigators to investigate conditions of confinement at facilities in Georgia through interviews with incarcerated people and record requests. Maya will work with the legal and policy teams to identify strategies to curb the human rights abuses people are experiencing and increase decarceration efforts, including supporting movement led work. Maya will also work with a team of data experts to identify the racial disparities present in the carceral system in Georgia.

Media

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My experience as an investigator showed me the importance of working with clients and impacted communities to challenge inhumane conditions and other consequences of mass incarceration."

Maya Chaudhuri /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Taylor works to support District of Columbia youth experiencing homelessness in accessing an appropriate education by challenging school policies and practices that violate their rights under federal and local laws.

As a consequence of homelessness, students may face barriers to accessing their public school education, particularly in the world of remote learning. As a highly mobile group, students experiencing homelessness are particularly vulnerable to being among the group of students not currently enrolled or attending online classes, making them more likely to fall behind in their academics. Students experiencing homelessness are entitled to remain in their school and receive transportation services and needed academic supports, such as school uniforms, to ensure full and equal opportunity to succeed. Youth and their families need to be informed of their legal rights and provided with direct representation to ensure that they receive the educational opportunities they are owed in-person and through virtual instruction.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, Taylor has:

  • Partnered with Pillsbury to conduct a survey of the enrollment processes in D.C. public charter schools to identify potential barriers for students experiencing homelessness
  • Represented three students who faced challenges enforcing their school-based rights in IEP meetings
  • Conducted two virtual trainings on the education rights of students experiencing homelessness to attorneys and advocates working with children and youth in D.C., and five virtual presentations for the legal community
  • Developed outreach and educational materials

Next Steps

In the next six months, Taylor plans to:

  • Continue to represent families experiencing homelessness in advocating for educational rights
  • Explore common issues students experiencing homelessness face in school enrollment to inform potential litigation
  • Consult with families and community partners to develop model school policies and procedures that align with federal and state law and serve the unique needs of homeless youth
  • Train and partner with pro bono attorneys to pursue individual and systemic complaints

I know first-hand how economic hardship can affect a student in school. I was fortunate enough to have extended family that served as a safety net. I want to advocate for vulnerable children who do not have the same supports.

Taylor Jones /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Tori provided accessible and culturally competent legal services to the Bay Area’s homeless population through direct services, local policy advocacy to decriminalize homelessness, and community partnerships.

There is a homelessness crisis in the Bay Area: in San Francisco and Alameda Counties, there are over 13,000 unhoused individuals. Instead of providing solutions that uphold the rights of people experiencing homelessness, cities throughout the Bay have created policies that criminalize the very act of being homeless, thus exacerbating the crisis. Homeless communities face numerous legal issues, such as losing their property in forced encampment evictions or having their vehicles towed away. Yet there are no accessible legal services available to them, especially to unsheltered homeless individuals.

Tori sees homelessness as the intersection of classism, racism, ableism, homophobia, and substance use issues, which all currently plague the United States. Firmly believing that all people experiencing homelessness deserve justice, she interned with a number of legal organizations in the Bay Area that provide legal services to homeless communities prior to her Fellowship.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Tori:

  • Filed dozens of administrative claims and small claims petitions against the City of San Francisco on behalf of homeless individuals who lost all of their property in unlawful encampment sweeps or had their vehicles towed for reasons related to their poverty
  • Provided holistic and accessible legal advice and referrals to 220 clients through the GLIDE Unconditional Legal Clinic and mobile legal services at encampments throughout the Bay Area
  • Engaged in two impact litigation cases – Sanchez v. Caltrans and Coalition on Homelessness v. San Francisco ¬¬– as part of ongoing LCCR litigation
  • Established meaningful relationships with local advocacy groups that support unhoused communities
  • Responded quickly to the COVID-19 public health emergency through advocacy around ending encampment sweeps and poverty tows and opening hotels for non-congregate shelter during the crisis

Next Steps

Tori will join the Homeless Action Center as a Staff Attorney in September 2021, where she will provide public benefits advocacy to disabled individuals in Alameda County.

Media

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In Bay Area, police citations hit Black, Latinx, unhoused residents hardest

Fight over ‘poverty tows’ heats up

Advocates say resumption of 'poverty tows' in San Francisco unfairly targets unhoused

The Inspiration

The Project

Brendan represents Spanish-speaking renters who have been thrust into the foreclosure crisis by their landlords’ default. Without English skills it is practically impossible to navigate the already infuriatingly complex intersection of foreclosure law and tenants’ rights. By keeping lawful renters in their homes, he will protect the value of bank-owned properties while sparing the surrounding community from the blight and crime accompanies vacant homes.

What’s Next

Brendan currently serves as a staff attorney for the City of Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board.

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

The Project

Koert’s project was focused on addressing physical barriers to accessibility that limit opportunities for thousands of people with disabilities in low-income communities of color. In New York’s low-income neighborhoods, sidewalks are crumbling, entryways to stores and businesses often have one or two steps with no ramp, and there is a total lack of accessible signage. This project used multiple strategies to increase accessibility, including community outreach; public education; organizing; media work; and advocacy and litigation.

Media

My Impact: A Conversation with 2008 Fellow Koert Wehberg

Koert Wehberg is appointed Chair of the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council by the governor.

Koert Wehberg joins the Mayor’s Commission on People with Disabilities