Race and Justice Clinic

Tools for Social Change: Race and Justice Clinic

What can lawyers do?

The Tools for Social Change: Race and Justice Clinic (aka Race and Justice Clinic) examines and practices methods that lawyers use to respond to social problems in the context of racial disproportionality in the juvenile justice system:

The clinic responds to the systemic issues that have resulted in an increasingly disproportionate number of minority youth being excluded from school and pushed into the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems.

  • Locking youth up: In King County, African American youth are 9 times as likely as white youth to be confined in the youth jail.
  • Treating youth as adults: In 2015, all of the youth under 18 who were charged as adults in King County were youth of color. Not a single white youth was charged as an adult.
  • Educational Equity: Currently, 5 school districts in Washington (including the Seattle School District) are being investigated by the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights for discriminatory practices related to school discipline and treatment of English Language Learners.

The Race and Justice Clinic addresses race in the justice system through multi-forum advocacy focusing on disparities for youth of color in the juvenile justice, adult criminal justice and education systems. Students and faculty work together to choose intervention points:

  • representing youth directly: clinic students have represented youth before the Clemency and Pardons Board, in first appearance hearings, records sealing motions, motions to modify legal financial obligations, school discipline hearings and early release hearings before the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board.
  • providing community education: examples include conducting workshops for youth in detention, collaborating with incarcerated youth to train public defenders, presenting youth voices to the Washington State Supreme Court, and educating community members about the harms of jailing youth.
  • conducting collaborative research to spark change: examples include partnering with a youth organization to draft Police in Schools: Student Perceptions of School Resource Officers and drafting an Amicus brief filed in the Washington Supreme Court; and partnering with high school students to advocate for curriculum that addresses their cultural history.
  • exploring policy change and impact litigation: Race and Justice clinic students have partnered with the Legislative Advocacy Clinic to pass legislation to eliminate barriers for youth stigmatized by the juvenile justice system and have worked with community organizations to challenge the over-utilization of jail for children.

Beyond Violence, Crime and Punishment: Toward Transformative Justice

This event was organized by a Race & Justice Clinic student in partnership with other units on campus. Read more from the UW Center for Human Rights.

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