Community Justice Project Clinic Students Help Returning Citizens, Homeless

July 18, 2014 —

Students in Georgetown Law’s Community Justice Project have seen two major victories in actions by the D.C. City Council. 

The first win is the “Ban the Box” legislation approved by the D.C. City Council on July 14, which will prohibit private employers from asking about criminal records on initial job applications. An initial version of the legislation was drafted by CJP clinic students Edward Williams (L’14), Flynn Burke (L’14) and Ashley Hodges (L’14) last fall for the D.C. Jobs Council.

“When employers ask about criminal records on an initial job application, there are people who are qualified, suited and could get the job, but who are just screened out at that phase,” said Visiting Associate Professor Colleen Shanahan, who directs The Community Justice Project, one of Georgetown's fifteen clinics. 

Shanahan emphasized that the bill does not prohibit employers from ever asking about a criminal record; it simply encourages them to engage with returning citizens about the information on their resumes. “By saying to employers you can’t ask first, it gives people a better chance, because the employer can actually engage in the substance of the person’s application.”

The students have also turned the draft into a guide and model legislation for other jurisdictions to follow. 

“This victory would not have been possible without the CJP students,” said Marina Streznewski, executive director of the D.C. Jobs Council. “What made this effort effective was a strong team, and Ed, Flynn and Ashley were essential players on that team.”

The second win for The Community Justice Project is the City Council’s approval to fund a coordinated entry system for unaccompanied homeless adults and continued funding for a rapid rehousing program. A report drafted by CJP clinic students, entitled “Unaccompanied Homeless Adults: Increasing Resources in D.C.,” contained both of these recommendations; Aleshadye Getachew (L'14), Taylor Anvid (L’14) and Kevin Scura (L’14) presented their findings before the City Council in December at the request of So Others Might Eat. 

“Three gifted and hard-working 3Ls in the CJP clinic — Getachew, Scura and Anvid — assisted So Others Might Eat in the District of Columbia with its efforts to expand resources for homeless adults who are unaccompanied by children,” said Nechama Masliansky, senior advocacy adviser for SOME.

Shanahan said that there will now be a standardized, central intake system to connect unaccompanied homeless individuals with service providers. “The fact that there is new funding for the coordinated entry system is an important step.”

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