Allison (she/her/hers) will work to overhaul oppressive probation and parole systems that feed mass incarceration and exacerbate racial inequities through a replicable, community-driven campaign of litigation and other advocacy.
4.4 million people in the United States, or 1 in every 58, are on probation or parole. These forms of supervision are promoted as alternatives to incarceration, but in reality, they set people up to fail. In 2017, nearly half of all state prison admissions stemmed from supervision violations—often for conduct that, at root, results from over-policing and a lack of resources. Given generations of structural racism, Black people are 3.5 times more likely to be on supervision than white people and are disproportionately arrested and charged with violations.
Building on the findings of her recent report, Allison will spearhead a community-centered campaign to end mass incarceration and enhance racial justice by reducing the use of supervision, drastically limiting incarceration for violations, and reinvesting savings in jobs, housing, and health services. To this end, Allison will develop and file replicable impact litigation challenging abusive probation and parole practices. Working in coalition with people on supervision, local advocates, and the ACLU’s 50-state network of affiliates, she will also promote legislative and administrative reforms to support the campaign’s goals. Finally, Allison will initiate public advocacy to raise awareness about oppressive probation and parole systems, amplifying the voices of people under supervision and local advocates.
Probation and parole are seen as acts of leniency, but in reality, these forms of punishment drive high numbers of people—particularly Black and Brown—right back to jail and prison, while largely failing to address their underlying needs. To dismantle mass incarceration and systemic racism, we must overhaul probation and parole.
Allison Frankel /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Ranit’s fellowship aimed to end New York’s cruel and counterproductive practice of suspending driver’s license in response to non-payment of traffic fines and non-appearance at traffic hearings.
Traffic Debt Suspensions, driver’s license suspensions for non-payment of traffic fines or the non-appearance at traffic hearings, trap millions of New Yorkers in a cycle of debt and punishment. Such suspensions force people who cannot afford to pay their traffic fines to make an impossible choice: stop driving and lose access to work, childcare, and other basic necessities, or keep driving and risk criminal charges. While approximately 75% of people continue to drive on a suspended license, this tension is especially felt by people of color, who are disproportionately stopped, ticketed, arrested, charged, and punished.
During the two-year Fellowship, Ranit:
- Led the campaign to enact the Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act (DLSRA), signed by Governor Cuomo on December 31, 2020. The DLSRA went into full effect on June 29, 2021. It ends driver’s license suspensions for unpaid traffic fines, reinstates driver’s licenses for unpaid traffic fines, and establishes affordable monthly payment plans for traffic fines, fees, and surcharges
- Trained public defenders across New York State in how to use the DLSRA to assist their clients
- Successfully represented clients in reinstating their driver’s licenses under the DLSRA
Ranit will join the National Center for Law and Economic Justice as a Staff Attorney. There, she will focus on broad fines and fees reform through litigation and legislative efforts, in New York and across the country.
Through this Fellowship, Molly will directly represent low-income New Yorkers in seeking accountability for police and prosecutorial misconduct, focusing on claims that private attorneys will not bring but which have a profound impact on the financial and social well-being of those who have experienced law enforcement misconduct.
Low-income people, especially people of color, face a greater risk of being targeted, harassed, and having their rights violated by law enforcement than other New Yorkers. Providing individual representation in police and prosecutorial misconduct matters has the twofold impact of directly aiding clients while also surfacing data that is otherwise difficult to collect. This data can assist civil rights attorneys in identifying patterns of rights violations, assist public defenders in identifying officers with a history of misconduct and inform criminal justice reform efforts. As a result, individual representation can build momentum toward systemic change.
Molly learned to question the fairness of the criminal system when she became involved in anti-death penalty work as a high school student in St. Louis, Missouri. In the following years, she was confronted with the stark injustice of the use of force against people of color by police, which inspired her work to seek accountability and to end a culture of impunity that allows abuse by law enforcement to continue.
Molly will represent clients in filing complaints against law enforcement in court as well as in administrative proceedings, including filing complaints with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the NYPD’s Office of the Inspector General, and the newly created State Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct. She will also track incidents of police misconduct in the Legal Aid Society’s Cop Accountability Project (CAP) database to identify patterns and develop litigation and policy strategies to reform these practices. Finally, she will conduct trainings for attorneys and know-your-rights community education workshops to equip attorneys and community members alike with tools to challenge law enforcement misconduct.
Events over the past few years have brought into the national spotlight a key civil rights issue that is longstanding and deeply rooted: the disproportionate use of police power against people of color. People of color are disproportionately stopped, searched, arrested, and shot by law enforcement as compared to white people. This policing predicament is equally prevalent in NYC schools. Students of color and students with disabilities bear the brunt of unconstitutional and ineffective school policing. The memorandum of understanding between the NYPD and the NYC Department of Education does not include effective mechanisms to ensure that NYPD School Safety Agents—which, standing alone, would be the 5th largest police force in the country—are deterred from or held accountable for violating students’ rights. Despite some recent reforms, NYC communities are in urgent need of meaningful accountability mechanisms to address school-based police misconduct.
During the Fellowship period, John has:
- Attended more than fifty meetings with advocates, organizers, and students to brainstorm ways to challenge the school-to-prison pipeline
- Developed fact sheets and other educational materials about policing in NYC public schools
- Collaborated with representatives from more than twenty-five organizations on police accountability efforts in schools
- Filed several New York State Freedom of Information Law requests
- Drafted know-your-rights material
- Reviewed data, case law, and reports as part of a legal investigation