How were scholars selected?
PLP scholars were identified and selected by the PLP Steering Committee—led by justice-impacted leaders, law professors, and civil rights attorneys— using the following selection criteria:
Demonstrated command of and interest in the legal discipline;
Academic prerequisites required by our partner paralegal and legal institutions; and
6 months without disciplinary issues within corrections facilities.
How does each scholars’ sentence, or the length of their sentence, factor into their participation in the pipeline?
Our team of attorneys, law professors, currently incarcerated liaisons, and formerly incarcerated leaders has identified qualified legal scholars to participate in the PLP pilot regardless of their background or Scheduled Release Date (SRD). Here’s why:
PLP Scholars’ Background
All of our PLP scholars will have a criminal background, a status that has historically been used as a blanket lever for disinvestment. Given this context, it is our position that all qualified scholars, regardless of their background, have a right to access a legal education.
PLP Scholars’ SRD
Our PLP scholars’ date of release is not relevant as it relates to the scope and mission of this Pilot. For those with SRD’s that are shorter in time, all existing credits obtained through the PLP will be honored by the academic institutions we’re partnering with and any remaining credits can be obtained upon release. For those with SRDs that are longer in duration, these students and eventual graduates can act as mentors to others who are travelling through this initiative.
How will scholars attend class from prison?
Scholars will attend class remotely through platforms that have cleared all requisite DOC security measures. These platforms will include DOC-secure tablets, computer labs, and/ or video conference calls. These platforms will utilize learning management systems to engage with professors and classwork.
Are college degrees available to those in prison?
Yes, there are post-secondary degrees available for those in prison as a result of significant “College Behind Bars” movement across the country. This includes the Bard Prison Initiative, a momentous College Prison Pilot transpiring in Minnesota, and a series of other trailblazing efforts that we are grateful to build upon.
Have ABA-approved paralegal degrees ever been available to those in prison?
To our knowledge: No. Presently, only non-accredited paralegal programs are available to those in correctional facilities. Though the education obtained through these programs is undoubtedly valuable for those wanting, or needing, to study jurisprudence while in prison, the degrees themselves are limited in scope and carry little weight in the legal discipline upon release.
Have law degrees ever been available to those in prison?
To our knowledge: No. ABA-accredited law degrees have never been available to those in prison.
How are tech-related security concerns being addressed?
The DOC IT team and the Chief Technology Officers at each legal academic institution are onboarding all requisite digital security measures to ensure compliance with all DOC security protocol.
Have the paralegal scholars started their paralegal degrees?
No. The 6 prospective PLP paralegal scholars will be enrolling to start their degrees this summer in the next 4 weeks. The summer session starts on June 14, 2021.
Have juris doctorate scholars gained admission into law school?
No. Our two prospective JD students took the LSAT from prison in April 2021. One scholar will be applying for admission to Mitchell Hamline College of Law for the Fall of 2021 and the other will be applying for admission for the Fall of 2022.
Note: We do not have any involvement with or say in the Mitchell Hamline College of Law Admissions process and we cannot guarantee admission for any PLP JD scholars. Mitchell Hamline College of Law is, however, a partner in the development of the PLP program.
What happens to the money I’ve contributed to the juris doctorate tuition if scholars you’ve identified do not gain admission?
Money donated for PLP JD tuition will be held in a separate account exclusively for PLP juris doctorate scholar tuition. No money earmarked for tuition will be used for any other purpose aside from PLP scholar tuition. Should scholars not gain admission to their JD program for the Fall of 2021, the funds will be held in trust until admission is gained.
Is my tuition contribution tax-deductible?
Yes. Your tuition contribution will be going directly to All Square, a 501c3 nonprofit, who will be operating as the fiscal agent for the tuition.
What if scholars involved in either the paralegal or the legal pipeline are released before they complete their degree?
If PLP scholars return home prior to the completion of their degree, all existing credits obtained through the PLP will be honored by the academic institutions we’re partnering with and any remaining credits will be obtained upon release (i.e., classes can be resumed “on the outside”). In addition, the PLP is being developed in partnership with Until We Are All Free and Mitchell Hamline College of Law Legal Assistance to Minnesota Prisoners Clinic to ensure PLP scholars have holistic, wrap-around resources while incarcerated and post-release.
What if juris doctorate scholars who obtain their law degrees are not able to sit for the bar exam?
Although we intend to work with other partners and leaders in Minnesota to push for reform in the legal licensure arena, the All Square Firm is developing a new model of law firm that directly addresses this issue by establishing positions that do not require a law license—while maintaining compliance with rules of professional conduct. Once developed and adopted, we will be sharing this model with other law firms and asking that they join us in the creation of these positions.
Assuming the All Square law firm cannot employ all pipeline graduates, where else will pipeline scholars be employed once they obtain their degrees and/or licensure?
We are actively seeking values-aligned law firm partners to join us in our commitment to employing PLP graduates. In the long term, we are advocating for a legal discipline that recognizes and actively recruits for the invaluable contributions that legal practitioners with lived experience—such as PLP scholars—bring to the legal field.
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