From teaching a record 1,700 students through Law Day in the Schools to releasing a compelling report on criminal justice reform, 2017 was a successful year at the BBA. For highlights and our favorite photos from the year, read on to see how you and your colleagues contributed to our public service initiatives over the past year.
Posts Categorized: BBA Reentry Education Program
Last month, the BBA Reentry Education Program wrapped up their final community presentation of the spring. Since 2013, following the formation of this program by the BBA’s Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP), volunteers have been educating probationers and those recently incarcerated on issues faced while reentering society: driver’s license reinstatement, obtaining affordable housing and public benefits, finding employment, and more. This year, the program reached 68 individuals through workshops held at the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, Coolidge House, and Hope House. We value our partnership with the Court Assisted Recovery Effort (CARE) and Reentry: Empowering Successful Todays and Responsible Tomorrows (RESTART) programs of the U.S. District Court and with Coolidge and Hope House.
We’re also thankful for the dedication of the Reentry Committee for all their efforts in coordinating each workshop and working with the volunteer presenters to update the materials as necessary. The volunteers are experts in their field and provided workshop participants with invaluable information.
2016-2017 Committee Members
- Julia Devanthéry, Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, Committee Co-Chair
- Sarah Schendel, Irish International Immigrant Center, Committee Co-Chair
- Brendan St. Amant, Donnelly, Conroy & Gelhaar, LLP
- Raquel Webster, National Grid USA
- Anuj Khetarpal, Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General
- Emily Hodge, Choate Hall & Stewart LLP
- Julie Heinzelman, Prince Lobel Tye LLP
- D’Andre Fernandez, Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General
- Renay Frankel, Harvard Law School
- Lizbeth Ginsburg, Greater Boston Legal Services
- Brian McLaughlin, McLaughlin Law, LLC
- Benjamin Richard, Law Office of Benjamin Richard
- Ryan Sakoda, Committee for Public Counsel Services
Earlier this month, Ryan Sakoda (Committee for Public Counsel Services), spoke to the residents of Hope House, a provider of residential and outpatient treatment services for those with substance abuse disorders, about how to apply for subsidized housing in Massachusetts. For Hope House program participants, finding stable housing is crucial for success after leaving the program. Sakoda explained the types of subsidies available and the differences between mobile & project-based, state & federal, and shallow & deep subsidies. Additionally, there are numerous applications for the various types of subsidies and public housing authorities. The application process can be extensive and detailed, but there are Boston area organizations that will provide general assistance when first applying.
Sakoda also highlighted the possibility of facing discrimination when searching for an apartment. Landlords may overtly or covertly deny housing to those with housing subsidies, which if suspected, can be reported to various state organizations for investigation. Attendees were provided the contact information of the city and state departments that will investigate housing discrimination, as well as other organizations dedicated to assisting with affordable housing issues.
This workshop was the last of our program year for the BBA’s Reentry Education Committee. However, if you’re interested in joining the committee to assist with finding speakers or review presentation materials, or if you’d like to volunteer as a speaker, please email Cassandra Shavney at [email protected].
The Boston Bar Association’s Reentry Education Program provides resources and information to probationers on a variety of topics. This month, residents of Coolidge House, a residential program for probationers released from federal prison, heard from Lizbeth Ginzburg (Greater Boston Legal Services) on the basics of public benefits. Attendees learned about the application process for SNAP, cash assistance programs, MassHealth, and SSI/SSDI benefits.
For many, it can be difficult to even know where to start, so the opportunity to hear about the process helps prepare those hoping to apply. Attendees discussed the challenges and myths they’ve heard surrounding various benefit programs and were provided with resource packets with information on all the programs.
If you’re interested in leading one of our Community Readiness Workshops, please email Cassandra Shavney at [email protected].
At this month’s BBA Reentry Education Workshop at the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, volunteers spoke to probationers about how to manage their Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI). In Massachusetts, all criminal records and information is stored on an individual’s CORI and can be requested for viewing through the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS). Often potential landlords or employers will access one’s CORI during the housing or employment application process. Our presenters, D’Andre Fernandez (Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office) and Renay Frankel (Harvard Law School), instructed the attendees how to access their CORI, check it for potential mistakes, and search who has requested their CORI in the past. They also reviewed the criteria for CORI sealing and provided information on legal clinics that can assist with sealing.
This month, the BBA’s Reentry Education Program held a workshop at the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts for probationers looking for guidance on reinstating their driver’s license. Benjamin Richard (Law Office of Benjamin Richard) led the presentation and reviewed the basic guidelines to reinstate one’s license. In many cases, there may be unresolved child support or parking tickets that need to be paid before it’s possible to apply for reinstatement. By outlining a three-step plan to reinstate one’s license, Richard was able to help the attendees figure out their next steps and priorities. Obtaining a driver’s license is a critical step for returning citizens who may need a car or license for employment.
The next Reentry Education workshop will focus on managing one’s Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI).
If you’re interested in volunteering to lead a Reentry Education workshop, please contact Cassandra Shavney at [email protected].
From teaching over 1,500 students their Miranda Rights to instituting a Bar Exam Coaching Program, 2016 was a successful year at the BBA. For highlights and our favorite photos from the year, read on to see how you and your colleagues contributed to our public services initiatives in 2016.
Thank you for a wonderful year, we can’t wait to kickoff 2017 with you!
We’d like to thank our 2016 BBA Reentry Education Program volunteers for donating their time to educate probationers on how to navigate various civil-legal issues faced when reentering society. This year, volunteers addressed over 150 probationers on issues related to employment law, obtaining housing, reinstating a driver’s license, CORI sealing, public benefits, finances, and family law. The BBA partnered with the Court Assisted Recovery Effort (CARE) and Reentry: Empowering Successful Todays and Responsible Tomorrows (RESTART) programs of the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, the CHOICE program in the Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court, and Hope House and Coolidge House, community partners serving the probation population.
We’re thankful for our volunteers:
Michael Birch, Hirsch Roberts Weinstein LLP
Lizbeth Ginsburg, Greater Boston Legal Services
Julie Heinzelman, Prince Lobel Tye LLP
Anuj Khetarpal, Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General
David Lieberman, Day Pitney LLP
Brian McLaughlin, Brian McLaughlin Esq. LLC
Kavya Naini, Harvard Law School
Ryan Sakoda, Committee for Public Counsel Services
Phong Tran, Harvard Law School
Ryan Sakoda, a Liman Public Interest Fellow at the Committee for Public Counsel Services, does a lot of work with defendants in the midst of a dispute over housing. As an attorney working in the public defender’s office in Boston, he frequently works to help clients who are facing eviction or who are having a hard time finding affordable housing because of a criminal record.
That’s why he wanted to volunteer to teach a session for the BBA’s Reentry Education program. During two recent sessions, Sakoda spoke to federal probationers and CHOICE participants about their options for getting into public housing in spite of their history.
“Many people that have contact with the criminal justice system are low-income, and so a lot of them do rely on housing assistance,” Sakoda said. “In order to move on with your life, housing is really the foundation to regain some stability and get past the contact with the criminal justice system.”
Sakoda said many of those with a criminal record get discouraged and do not apply for public housing, because they have heard about the difficulties from other people in a similar position or because they have applied before and been denied. During the training, Sakoda covered an applicant’s right to appeal the decision if they are denied housing, a step that he said many people do not take.
“The truth is that there just aren’t enough public interest lawyers to fully represent all the people that need this kind of legal assistance. That’s why I feel it’s so important that the BBA and other organizations put on these informational programs,” Sakoda said.
At the BBA, one of our public service initiatives focuses on helping probationers to understand the complex world of legal and financial obligations they’ll be met with when their sentence is up. Two longtime volunteers with the BBA’s Reentry Education program, David W.S. Lieberman and Brian McLaughlin, caught up with Beyond the Billable to talk about their most recent educational sessions.
Liberman, a former PILP member and Associate at Day Pitney LLP, led a session on financial literacy and responsibility for participants of the CHOICE program in the Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court.
CHOICE is an intensive probation supervision program in the Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court. CHOICE offers young adult probationers the opportunity to pursue either educational or vocational goals as an alternative to incarceration.
Lieberman spoke on a range of topics, from including how to open a bank account, track your spending, and understand credit reports and ratings.
“It’s really important to help people understand the building blocks to achieving financial stability particularly how credit ratings are used to make decisions about things like housing and employment. These concepts are very rarely taught in school and it is vital that people understand them especially as they are trying to get their lives back on track,” Lieberman said. “I am always energized by the level of engagement during these sessions and I am grateful for the opportunity to present to the CHOICE participants.”
The session was part of the BBA’s Reentry Education Program, which aims to help probationers successfully undergo a new beginning.
Our volunteer attorneys also work with probationers in the Federal District Court’s CARE/RESTART program, and McLaughlin, a former PILP member of Brian McLaughlin, Esq. LLC, recently led a presentation on family law. He spoke to a group about navigating complex issues like child support, paternity and custody issues.
“I honestly look forward to this event every year. I always learn something from the audience that I would’ve never thought of. Each year that I do the presentation, I come away with a renewed perspective of family law,” McLaughlin said. “This year’s presentation was among the most interactive and I cannot wait to see what next year’s group brings.”