The following article by Gilien Silsby honors the tireless work of USC's Post Conviction Justice Project. Below is an excerpt from her article, For Inmates Serving Life Terms, USC's Post-Conviction Justice Project Sparks Hope Where None Existed.
The inmates at the maximum-security Pelican Bay State Prison in Northern California sat in a circle in the enormous gym, their hair graying at the temples and a decades-old refrain echoing through their heads: No optimism. No chance to go home. Most had been incarcerated for more than half their lives, sentenced to die in prison for crimes committed as juveniles or young adults.
But on a day last month, the men thought about second chances. They listened and took notes as a group of people dedicated to reforming the juvenile justice system spoke to them about the difficult path to release through parole.
Made up of USC law students, formerly incarcerated advocates and three human rights and legal professionals, the team was there to educate the prisoners about new laws that could lead to their freedom.
“We are really excited to meet you today, and to help you get home,” said Professor Heidi Rummel, director of the USC Gould School of Law’s Post-Conviction Justice Project, which has co-sponsored or written nearly every juvenile justice bill in California since 2012. “We are going to help you with the parole process because it can be a steep hill to climb,” Rummel, a former federal prosecutor, told the men. “The goal is to show the board who you are now. You need to search within yourself to find your story.”
Rummel and her Post-Conviction Justice Project students have made it their mission to hold parole workshops at every prison in California that houses juvenile offenders sentenced to life without parole. They have teamed up with Elizabeth Calvin, senior advocate at Human Rights Watch, who teaches with Rummel at USC Gould.
So far, they have visited 19 prisons in the past year, holding workshops and offering counsel to 211 of the state’s 257 juvenile offenders originally sentenced to life without parole (LWOP). On the Pelican Bay prison visit, they were joined by Scott Budnick, producer of The Hangover franchise and founder of the non-profit Anti-Recidivism Coalition, which employs former youth offenders in Hollywood and elsewhere.
For the full article and more about the Post-Conviction Justice Project click on the link USC News.
Inspired by Herb Blake
This section is devoted to the inspired work of those dedicated to addressing the needs of the recently released from incarceration, individuals that have been victimized and the community to heal and know that in the human community all things are possible.