Tolu Adewale

  • Hosted by Legal Aid of North Carolina
  • Sponsored by AmeriCorps, Legal Aid of North Carolina
  • Service location Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina
  • Issue area Criminal Records Relief, Employment
  • Fellowship class year 2015
  • Program AmeriCorps Fellows Program

The Project

Tolu Adewale works with people facing obstacles to jobs and housing due to prior justice involvement, advising them about their eligibility for expunctions and Certificates of Relief (a court order stating that the recipient doesn’t pose an unreasonable risk to society) and litigating those cases, often arguing matters of first impression.

A lot of our clients don’t know what’s on their record or how to access it, but potential employers and lessors do. They didn’t understand their plea deal or deferred prosecution agreement. They don’t know that acquittals and dismissals stay on the record, and can lead to the same collateral consequences as convictions. In the case of stolen/mistaken identity, clients are surprised to find out that they have a record at all. All of this can create a stigma and a first impression that our clients don’t find out about until after they’ve lost out on a job. It can keep qualified applicants from work, and can keep people who are not dangerous out of safe, affordable housing.

Highlights to Date

In the first year, Tolu has:

  • advised clients at mobile legal clinics held by Legal Aid of North Carolina across the breadth of the state
  • trained dozens of attorneys and law students on substantive law
  • developed a pilot program to test a new model for delivery of legal services

What’s Next

In the next year, Tolu plans to:

  • develop more partnerships with agencies that work directly with people who are facing barriers because of their records
  • file cases as a matter of first impression in multiple counties, and litigate novel questions of law

Meet Other Fellows Like Tolu

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Dafna Gozani

Host: Colorado Juvenile Defender Center

Sponsor: AmeriCorps, Colorado Juvenile Defender Center

Kathleen Lockwood

Host: Southern Coalition for Social Justice

Sponsor: AmeriCorps, Southern Coalition for Social Justice

Johanna Zacarias

Host: Northeast New Jersey Legal Services

Sponsor: AmeriCorps, Northeast New Jersey Legal Services

Jenn Pence

Host: Legal Aid Society of Louisville

Sponsor: AmeriCorps, Legal Aid Society of Louisville