Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $500,000)
Each year, more than 600,000 citizens return to neighborhoods across America after serving time in federal and state prisons or jails. The purpose of the project is to serve the reentry population in Southern New Jersey by helping individuals with criminal records to address civil legal matters that are barriers to community re-integration, working to secure fair and equal treatment for these individuals within the legal system, and facilitating successful community and family reunification.
Volunteer UP Legal Clinic proposes to utilize the Byrne Discretionary Grant funding to implement expanded operations of the Volunteer UP South Jersey Pro Bono Legal Clinic, which was incorporated as a nonprofit in 2022. The purpose is to expand the scope of legal services not otherwise available to economically disadvantaged and otherwise marginalized residents of Camden, New Jersey and its surrounding communities in Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester Counties. Project activities include staffing and support to provide legal services, to connect clients facing legal barriers to their success with South Jersey attorneys who volunteer to provide high-quality pro bono legal services, to increase the capacity of the Clinic to recruit and support pro bono attorneys to advise, counsel, and represent clients, and to increase the scope of community education and outreach provided in the region when access to an attorney would otherwise not be available. Expected outcomes include serving approximately 200 residents over the course of the year, organizing at least two community expungement events. The intended beneficiaries of the project are individuals with prior criminal justice involvement and justice impacted families and communities in an effort to stabilize individuals and families to prevent further negative ramifications of past criminal records.