BBA Public Interest Leaders Will Pilot Community Reentry Readiness Series at Federal Court

Monday, December 17, 2012

With the support and encouragement of U.S. District Judge Timothy Hillman and U.S. Magistrate Judge Leo T. Sorokin, the members of the Boston Bar Association's (BBA) 2012-2013 Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) today announced they will develop and deliver the curriculum for a series of workshops for federal probationers called Community Reentry Readiness.

Particularly appealing about this PILP initiative is its ability to leverage the experience and expertise of the Boston Bar Association to help an under-served population and also the court. The BBA has long advocated for public policy initiatives to facilitate reentry and prevent recidivism as a key component of criminal justice reform and public safety, and its sections are knowledgeable about many of the civil legal issues probationers face.

Designed to identify and develop the next generation of lawyer leaders, PILP is a highly selective 14 month program drawing applicants from an exceptionally talented diverse group of young lawyers committed to serving the public interest. With the support of their law firms or other legal employers, PILP classes are expected to take on a significant public service project consistent with the BBA's mission.

Starting on a pilot basis, the workshops will be designed to meet the needs of probationers receiving increasing supervision through two well established programs operating out of the Federal Court -- Court Assisted Recovery Effort (CARE) for those struggling with drug addiction, and Reentry: Empowering Successful Todays and Responsible Tomorrows (RESTART) for those who present a particularly high risk of recidivism.

During the course of a September discussion with the judges and then with a group of probationers, the Public Interest Leaders identified a gap they could fill -- providing information about recurring civil legal issues faced by probationers participating in CARE and RESTART. For example, probationers reported difficulties obtaining the driver's and professional licenses that they lost while in prison and which are often essential for them to obtain employment. They also noted confusion about the nature of their child-support obligations during and after prison, which can affect their financial situation upon their release.

Following a recent presentation to the BBA's governing Council, the 2012-2013 PILP Class has received the green light to develop a Community Reentry Readiness series that will cover seven topics intended to arm the probationers with skills to improve their chances of long term success:

Financial Literacy/Student Loans/Debt Management
Driver's Licenses/Professional Licenses
CORI Management
Employment
Housing
Family Law
Benefits Available to Low-Income Individuals in Massachusetts

The first round of workshops is expected to take place in the spring of 2013.

For more information about the PILP program please contact Susan Helm at shelm@bostonbar.org.