Three Strikes Project: Criminal Justice Reform & Individual Representation
This seminar offers a unique opportunity to study criminal justice reform in real time. In this seminar, students will read and discuss a variety of cases and articles, examining the evolution of incarceration and sentencing reform in California as a case study in the history, politics, practical considerations and legal regulation of sentencing and "mass incarceration" in the United States. Students will also have an opportunity to test their skills in the field, assisting in the representation of inmates currently seeking sentence reductions under recently enacted criminal justice legislation. California's criminal justice system has been under turmoil and scrutiny in recent years. The state remains under an order from the United States Supreme Court in its landmark decision, Brown v. Plata, to reduce its prison overall population. California began its effort to address prison overcrowding in 2011 by enacting sweeping legislation to "realign" criminal justice resources and shift major responsibilities from the state level to local counties. In 2012, voters passed the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012 (Proposition 36) by ballot measure, reforming the California's famously harsh recidivist sentencing statute. And this past November, voters extended the reforms by passing the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act of 2014 (Proposition 47), reducing several nonviolent crimes to misdemeanors. Past Project students were closely involved in enacting last two reforms and are now engaged in implementing the new sentencing statutes. In addition to studying the law and related criminal justice policy, students will assist with different stages of ongoing litigation on behalf of nonviolent inmates seeking sentence reductions. Students will visit a Project client in prison, conduct factual investigation in the field, and draft petitions on our client's behalf. Students will also contribute to ongoing policy work to ensure the effective implementation of reforms impacting our clients, which include individual prisoners and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The Project is an ongoing, fast-paced organization that depends on the hard work and contributions of law students enrolled in the seminar. This course offers the opportunity to both study the theory behind the law, and to hone practical litigation and advocacy skills in and out of the courtroom. The seminar will meet for 3 hours per week. Students will also meet for 1 hour individually and in teams with Project director Mike Romano each week to discuss their work on their projects. CONSENT APPLICATION: Interested students must apply to enroll in the seminar by sending a one-page statement of interest and resume by email with the subject line "application" to Mike Romano (firstname.lastname@example.org). Applications will be considered on a rolling basis. Elements used in grading: Class Participation, Attendance, Written Assignments.