FADE coalition

Success In Campaign Against Durham PD Racial Profiling

We are glad to report that the campaign against racial profiling in Durham has begun to result in important and concrete changes to departmental policies. It was one year ago this week that SCSJ joined its partners in the FADE coalition in marching from the Durham Police Department to the steps of City Hall. On the afternoon of September 16, 2013, organizers took turns reading a list of community grievances with the Durham PD. Chief among them were allegations of racial profiling and a pattern and practice of illegal searches and excessive force against minority communities. The demonstration was organized in the wake of the recent police shooting of Honduran immigrant Jose Adan Ocampo and the arrest of Carlos Riley, Jr., and happened just one day before 26-year old Derek Walker was shot to death by police at CCB plaza, during an incident captured by area news cameras.

A few weeks later, on October 17, 2013, the FADE coalition issued a formal letter to the city, outlining a list of specific policy recommendations designed to change the culture of Durham policing, end the use of racial profiling practices, and promote institutional accountability. The recommendations were developed through a series of community meetings and listening sessions in the most directly impacted neighborhoods, as well as by conducting a nationwide survey of best practices for reducing incidents of racialized policing. The package of reforms, which came to be known as the “FADE recommendations,” and which ultimately came to enjoy widespread support from a diverse-array of Durham organizations and congregations, included the following policy proposals:

  • Mandate the use of written consent-to-search forms for all searches in which officers lack probable cause or reason to believe a person is armed and dangerous;
  • Designate marijuana enforcement the city’s lowest law enforcement priority, given the highly discriminatory way in which the current law is enforced;
  • Require periodic audits of individual officer stop, search and arrest data to monitor for and detect officers who are engaging in racially discriminatory law enforcement practices;
  • Mandate that all Durham police officers participate in formal racial equity training;
  • Reform the ineffective Durham Civilian Police Review Board, which, in its ten years of existence has yet to rule in favor of a civilian.
  • A year later, we are pleased to report that most of these recommendations have either been formally implemented by the City Manager or are well on their way to being implemented.

    Much work remains to be done with regard to the Civilian Review Board, but there have been some tangible improvements to even that institution—the most notable of which gives the City Council, and thus the public, a say in Board appointments, a responsibility which had previously rested exclusively with the City Manager.

    The story of how this came to be—and of all the amazing community members, organizations, and congregations who had a hand in making it happen—will be the subject of a future blog post. For present purposes, it’s enough to say that this was a true community-based effort from day one and these reforms never would have happened but for the abiding commitment of a great many people, who came together for the common purpose of demanding a police department that is fair in its treatment of the community it serves and committed to principles of nondiscriminatory policing.

    So where exactly do we stand?

    As of October 1st, Durham will join Austin, TX, and Fayetteville, NC, as one of the first cities in the country to mandate that police obtain the informed, written consent of motorists before undertaking non-probable cause based searches.

    This is a significant and hard fought change, and one that we expect to bear immediate results in reducing the incidence of invasive vehicle searches, 82% of which involved black motorists in 2013. Before searching a vehicle without probable cause, police will now have to inform motorists of their right to refuse by way of a form that the driver must sign before the search can proceed. Following the adoption of written consent in Fayetteville in 2012, traffic stops dropped by 50% and searches by 60%, according to a review of records conducted by the Fayetteville Observer.

    On the issue of marijuana enforcement, and in response to community demands, Mayor Bill Bell has announced a convening of the city’s Chief District Court Judge, District Attorney, Sheriff, Police Chief, and Manager to explore the use of “diversion and treatment programs” in order to “reduce the criminal and financial impact” of marijuana arrests.

    Multiple City Council members publicly announced their support for outright “decriminalization” of the drug and their belief that the city should officially “deprioritize” its enforcement if decriminalization is deemed impractical by city lawyers, given the existence of North Carolina General Statutes that continue to criminalize possession. This particular initiative will take time to implement, given all the different players involved, but the city’s commitment towards ending the racially discriminatory enforcement of marijuana laws is nonetheless a very encouraging first step in the right direction.

    The City Manager also announced his support of the 3rd FADE recommendation of using officer stop and search data for management purposes.

    Starting January 31, 2015, Durham PD General Order 1050 will be amended to include the regular analysis of officer “stop/search data as a referral activity to the Professional Excellence Program” and for purposes of “annual performance reviews.” This policy change, like written consent, should produce immediate results once it goes into effect next year, as officers will, for the first time, know that their stop and search data is being routinely scrutinized for racialized policing patterns and compared to peer officers, assigned to similar beats, for identification of any anomalous stop or search activity.

    As for racial equity training, the city has agreed to require that all current and future officers participate in formal racial equity training, currently scheduled to be conducted under the auspices of the Fair and Impartial Policing Program. We have concerns about the selection of this particular training program, given its predominant focus on unconscious, or implicit, bias. The program does not appear to include a holistic assessment of department orders, directives and protocols that, though perhaps well-intentioned, may be combining to produce the sort of highly racialized outcomes that prompted the community to bring its concerns to the city in the first place. We will continue to press the city to participate in additional race equity work and we have already received a commitment from at least one City Councilman to investigate the possibility of bringing in the Center for Policing Equity, based in Los Angeles, to conduct a department-wide assessment.

    Click here to read the City Manager’s latest report.

    Post by SCSJ’s Ian Mance, Attorney & Soros Justice Fellow

    durham-police

    Durham adopts written-consent policy for searches

    Starting Oct. 1, all Durham Police Department officers will obtain a person’s written permission before undertaking a so-called “consent search” of a vehicle or building.

    The decision squares with the wishes of the City Council, but was confirmed this week by City Manager Tom Bonfield, who has the actual executive power to order the change.

    Without the use of written consent, “it’s pretty obvious we can’t get by this trust issue” regarding the Police Department’s that’s emerged over the past year or so, Bonfield said Tuesday.

    The change, and the Oct. 1 start date, was included in a long list of “action items” Bonfield included in an updated report to the council on the staff response to advice from the city’s Human Relation Commission and Civilian Police Review Board.

    It said the department will begin “written documentation of all consent searches,” not just those of buildings.

    City officials and their advisory boards have mulled the consent-search issue at the urging of an assortment of interest groups led by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

    The groups pointed out that statistics show Durham police search the vehicles of black motorists well out of proportion to their share of the city’s population.

    They urged the use of written consent to ensure that motorists know they have the right to refuse an officer’s request for a look inside a car or truck when the officer doesn’t have probable cause to think there’s been a crime.

    The change won’t affect searches authorized by a warrant, or probable-cause based vehicle searches without warrants, which the U.S. Supreme Court allows.

    Deputy Police Chief Larry Smith and other Police Department commanders have said officers for tactical reasons will sometimes ask a motorist for permission to conduct a search, even when they have probable cause to search without the target’s consent.

    The Human Relations Commission supported the call for the use of written consent. Bonfield agreed on the need for “documentation” of permission, but other than for buildings, he initially thought it would be sufficient to capture it in an audio or video recording.

    But Southern Coalition activists countered that minorities are more likely to feel intimidated by police, and thus need the additional warnings and protection of a written consent form.

    City Council members agreed.

    “If I have to sign something, then I am more cognizant of what my rights really are,” Councilman Schewel said earlier this month. “I actually get to decide whether or not I want to exercise that right.”

    Bonfield said that while he still thinks “documentation in some form” is enough, the community-trust issue overrides that.

    “People believe written [consent] is going to provide more responsiveness to restoring trust,” he said. “And that’s fine.”

    He added that the Oct. 1, two-weeks-away start should give commanders time enough to spread the word to front-line officers.

    Police Chief Jose Lopez “felt confident they could meet that deadline,” Bonfield said. “That was his suggested deadline; that wasn’t mine.”

    Council members are scheduled to discuss police issues again on Thursday, but they don’t need to do anything more for the change in consent-search policy to take effect. “We’re moving forward with that,” the manager said.

    This piece originally appeared in the Durham Herald-Sun Sep. 16, 2014 @ 06:14 PM

    Durham_City_Hall

    Durham City Council begins spelling out views on police issues

    Council begins spelling out views on police issues

    This piece first appeared on the Herald-Sun website on Sep. 02, 2014 @ 10:44 PM

    Most and perhaps all the members of Durham’s City Council favor asking city police officers to obtain a motorist’s written permission before undertaking a “consent” search of a car or truck.

    The apparent consensus – which includes Mayor Bill Bell – emerged Monday as members discussed City Manager Tom Bonfield’s recent report on the Durham Police Department.

    Bonfield endorsed requiring written permission for consent searches of buildings, but for vehicle searches proposed leaving it to officer discretion whether or not to get it in writing.

    He cited “officer safety or situational control of traffic stops” as reasons to continue practices in that regard.

    Bell, however, said he is “not persuaded” that a written-consent requirement would harm department operations.

    The mayor noted that police only need consent in the absence of probable cause to believe a crime’s been committed, an arrest or a warrant.

    “Barring any of these circumstances, I think a person who’s been stopped by police should be offered an opportunity to sign written consent before a vehicle is searched,” Bell said.

    Councilman Eugene Brown said later he agreed with the mayor’s comments, and Councilwoman Diane Catotti said she thought the council can “go further” than what Bonfield had proposed.

    Councilman Steve Schewel signaled last month he also favored written consent, and Monday’s meeting saw Councilwoman Cora Cole-McFaddden do likewise.

    “Written consent needs to be in place as soon as possible,” she said. “I know it’s legal to do it, and that’s one of the first steps we can take. And we should take that step now.”

    Councilman Don Moffitt said he “can support” requiring written consent. Councilman Eddie Davis didn’t address the issue specifically, which by definition means he didn’t voice any disagreement with his colleagues about it.

    Davis was alone on the council in alluding to the recent disorder and protests in Ferguson, Missouri, that followed the killing of a black youth by a white police officer.

    “We have to make sure we prevent issues here in Durham from escalating to the point they have escalated in the Midwest,” he said.

    The written-consent proposal is on the council’s plate because of requests from groups including the local NAACP, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the FADE Coalition that point to large racial disparities in the Police Department’s stop-and-search statistics.

    Written consent assures that people in dealing with a search request know their rights, including their right to refuse an officer permission to search, they argue.

    The disparities themselves involve blacks being the target of vehicle stops and search requests more often than whites, well out of proportion to their presence in the city’s population.

    Bell addressed the associated racial-profiling allegations head-on, saying the department’s figures merit detailed study, perhaps with the help of an independent expert.

    “The Durham Police Department says that in carrying out their duties, they do not carry out racial profiling,” Bell said. “The raw statistics, as provided by the Durham Police Department, do not bear that out.”

    Moffitt added that Police Chief Jose Lopez’s quarterly public report to the council on city crime statistics should from now on also include stop-and-search data, to assure “transparency and accountability.”

    He also said the city needs to publish quarterly reports on the number of complaints about officer conduct made to the department’s Professional Standards Division, along with data on the outcomes of those complaints.

    Accompanying that, “I need to know if there are individual outliers in the data,” he said. “If 72 percent of the complaints are about one individual, we need to know and that needs to be in the reports.”

    Council members by and large agreed with Bonfield’s assessment that any response to calls from the FADE Coalition and the other groups for a de-emphasis on marijuana-possession enforcement needs buy-in from other players in the criminal-justice system, including Durham’s new district attorney, Roger Echols.

    But they made it clear they sympathize with the coalition’s views on the matter. Brown said traditional enforcement tactics in the long run may generate more crime than they quell, by exposing young people to prosecution and jail.

    “It is our young people who are really being crucified by this, and it really in my judgment must stop,” he said.

    Monday’s discussion stopped short of being the council’s definitive word on the manager’s report, as members agreed they want to discuss in more detail during a work session coming up on Thursday.

    For that meeting, “come prepared to decide which of [the manager’s recommendations] you support or don’t support or want tweaked,” Bell told his colleagues, adding that the council has to “bring this to a conclusion.”

    Moffitt, however, said the council can’t “change an institution overnight.”

    “These issues are going to be ongoing,” he said. “This work is going to go on for a long time.”

    FADE coalition

    City Council Decisions On Durham Police Department

    This radio interview originally aired on WUNC’s The State of Things on September 2, 2014

    City Council Decisions On Durham Police Department

     

    The Durham City Council meets about the city’s police department tonight and the alleged racial discrimination by law enforcement.

    City of Durham
    Credit City of Durham

     

    The Durham City Council is expected to take up policy recommendations about the city’s police department tonight. The meeting comes after months of consideration of recommendations from community organizations who allege racial discrimination by law enforcement.The department says such allegations are unfounded.

    Host Frank Stasio talks with WUNC reporter Jorge Valencia; Durham city council member Steve Schewel; Durham mayor pro tem Cora Cole-McFadden;  Southern Coalition for Social Justice attorney Daryl Atkinson; and Reverend Mark-Anthony Middleton of the Abundant Hope Christian Church, a congregation of the Durham CAN organization.

    police culture

    Prisons and police culture gone rogue

    This post originally appeared in the St Louis American

    By Christi Griffin

    There are few who did not rise to the occasion, who did not donate, plan or pray. There are few who did not view the senseless and brutal shooting of Michael Brown as a reflection of the lack of value placed on the lives of black males. There are few who did not vow to carry on, to demand justice for Michael Brown and all who died before him.

    But there are also few who realize the connection between brazen police shootings of young, black males and entire system of so-called criminal justice. They don’t see a carefully designed plan to demoralize African Americans and bolster incarcerations. They don’t see that the failure to vote out a prosecutor whose disregard for the African-American community has empowered law enforcement to shoot to kill without fear of prosecution.

    For every white officer who goes unindicted for gunning down black boys, a message is sent to others. To the police, no matter how disproportionate the response or incompetent the confrontation, there’s little to fear as to consequence. To black boys, it’s a message of diminished value. To the world, it’s one that they are above the law.

    The U.S. system of mass incarceration is big business. It generates over $72 billion a year in profits for corporations and those who buy their stock. Mass incarceration breeds on poverty, unemployment, disrespect and hate. It breeds on generations of black males once again learning their place; castrated by Tasers, billy sticks and guns.

    It breeds on their submission to the constant taunting of racist and overbearing police – routine traffic stops turned into searches, routine searches turned into arrests. It’s a circuitous practice that criminalizes black males for behavior routinely ignored when engaged in by whites. It’s a practice that has prison cells disproportionately filled with minorities.

    With a staggering increase in the rates of incarceration, the correlation between prisons and a police culture gone rogue should be clear. Those who profit from prisons, whether private or not, have bought their way into the pockets of politicians, courts and police. They have insured that their investments bring a return and that prison beds stay filled.

    All prisons generate profits, but since the inception of private prisons 30 years ago their profits have soared. Essentially engaged in human trafficking on the stock exchange, their populations have increased by 800 percent.

    There are few who ever thought St. Louis would be the epicenter of social change. That the killing of an unarmed teen in Canfield Green would galvanize a region and generate a resolve previously unknown. Outside of St. Louis, there are few who know the protests, violence and meetings are an indication that the days of unchecked police brutality has come to an end.

    There’s a price to pay for our sons and that price will be high. We’re tired. We’ve had enough. From this point forward, the words “To Serve and Protect” will include our sons as well.

    Christi Griffin police culture

    Christi Griffin is the founder of The Ethics Project, a non-profit organization addressing the impact of crime, injustice and incarcerations. She is the author of “Incarcerations in Black and White: The Subjugation of Black America.” See www.TheEthicsProject.org or email TheEthicsProject@gmail.com.

    Daryl Atkinson Ban the Box

    Daryl Atkinson Interviewed on To the Point about Ban the Box

    After 20 years of being “tough on crime,” local cops have arrested almost one third of all Americans. Their records are easily available to banks, college officials and prospective employers, even when their crimes were minor, or they were never charged. Target, Wal-Mart and Bed, Bath & Beyond are among the companies that no longer ask job applicants if they’ve ever been arrested. We hear why the “ban the box” movement is spreading across the country. Now, 60 cities and 12 states have laws that “ban the box” on application forms that asks, “Have You Ever Been Arrested?” We’ll hear what that means for the individuals involved, employers fearing lawsuits for making mistakes – and for public safety.

    The Daryl Atkinson interview begins at 15:26.

    This piece originally ran on KCRW’s To The Point on August 21, 2014.

    written consent

    Written consent as a tool of racial equity

    Written consent as a tool of racial equity

    This piece first appeared on The Durham News website on August 22, 2014. It has been modified to include a video mentioned in the text of the article.

    City Manager Tom Bonfield’s report to the City Council this week, in which he announced his plans regarding the embattled Durham Police Department, may lead to a department that is more accountable to the public. However, left unchanged, it is unlikely to make significant progress in reducing the large racial disparities evident in a decade’s worth of data on Durham policing.

    Bonfield’s much-anticipated report was a direct response to a seven-month investigation by the Human Relations Commission, which found evidence of “racial bias and racial profiling” in the practices of the department.

    The manager notably parted ways with the commission on one the most significant recommendations to emerge from its lengthy deliberations: requiring the use of written consent-to-search forms for vehicle searches in which officers lack probable cause to think a crime has been committed or reason to believe a motorist may be armed.

    Such a policy has proven effective in numerous jurisdictions in reducing racial disparities related to run-of-the-mill traffic stops. The form clarifies for the motorist that they have agency over what happens to them and gives officers an opportunity to reflect on whether they have a genuinely race neutral reason for requesting permission to search. It also provides an important safeguard for motorists who deny officers consent to search, only to be searched anyway and have the officer later claim to have obtained verbal permission.

    In Durham, black drivers are more than 100 percent more likely to be searched pursuant to a request for consent, although such searches are statistically less likely to uncover contraband than similar searches of whites. Even when a person has nothing illegal to hide, as is typically the case, the stakes are often high for black drivers.

    As explored in the recently released Southern Coalition for Social Justice documentary, “Stories of Racial Profiling in Durham,” vehicle searches can be highly invasive, are often humiliating for the individual involved, sometimes result in damaged property, and frequently take half an hour or longer to conduct. Last year, in a city whose black population is approximately 40 percent, over 83 percent of people subjected to a vehicle search were black.

    The commission proposed the written consent policy – which was put in place in Fayetteville in 2012 following a recommendation from the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives – because of large racial disparities that exist with respect to whom Durham officers search by way of consent. As our documentary reveals, behavior deemed innocuous in white neighborhoods is regularly regarded as suspicious in black ones, often giving rise to unreasonable searches.

    While the manager’s proposal to increase the use of cameras will help to promote accountability and may make some dent in the racial search gap, the relevant literature suggests it will not have the same effect on curtailing coercive search behavior as will a written form crystalizing the right to refuse. Just earlier this week, the Fayetteville Observer interviewed a former police officer who explained that, “without a form, law enforcement officers can too easily manipulate or intimidate … drivers into giving consent after being stopped for a minor infraction.” In Durham, the data suggests these sort of coercive practices happen far too often.

    Specifically, the high rate of consent searches relative to the number of searches overall is indicative of many officers going on fishing expeditions, with the resulting burden falling almost entirely on black motorists. Of the eight largest cities in the state, Durham posts the highest rate of consent searches of black motorists as a percentage of all searches. Nearly half of all searches (48.2 percent) conducted by Durham PD between 2008 and 2012 fell into this category, a percentage significantly higher than occurred in cities with comparable black populations (Fayetteville, 24.5 percent; Raleigh, 22.9 percent; Winston-Salem, 15.2 percent).

    The manager’s report acknowledges the disparities but fails to provide an effective means to reduce them. While strongly encouraging police to document consent, the report ultimately leaves the decision to the discretion of the individual officer. This, all evidence suggests, is a mistake.

    Ian A. Mance is an attorney at the Durham-based Southern Coalition for Social Justice (www.scsj.org).

    marijuana-istock

    Herald-Sun op-ed urges Durham to re-examine marijuana enforcement

    This op-ed first appeared in The Herald-Sun on Thursday, August 21, 2014

    “Unexplained Racial Disparity”

    City Manager Tom Bonfield’s request that the Police Department explain why the vast majority of marijuana arrests in this city are of black people suggests two reactions.

    One, and we truly mean this, is – yes! It is exactly right that Bonfield – indeed, anyone – should wonder why 86 percent of the marijuana arrests over the past 18 months have been of African-Americans.

    The second reaction, a bit less charitably, might be to wonder why we are just now realizing and focusing on this. We suspect that many black citizens could and would readily have offered that conclusion based on real-world observed evidence.

    To be fair, Durham is nothing more than a reflection of national trends in drug enforcement. There is growing national alarm over the troubling evidence that drug enforcement generally has overzealously targeted black citizens. We might also note that our war on drugs has been markedly ineffective at doing anything other than driving our prison population to levels that exceed other developed countries, but that’s an issue for another day.

    Bonfield has given police until the end of the year to look into and report back on the “unexplained racial disparity” in the marijuana arrests.  That seems a generous amount of time, but we’re glad there is a deadline.

    Nationwide, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union, “one consistent trend” in drug-law enforcement is “significant racial bias. Despite roughly equal usage rates, blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana.”

    Durham exceeds that – our ratio is more like six to one in favor of arresting blacks.  We have no particular reason to think that our city differs dramatically from the national statistics in marijuana use.

    True, our population mix is different than the natural norm.  And Durham police make arrests for marijuana possession less often than their counterparts across the nation, including in other major North Carolina cities. But with whites and blacks being roughly equal here – just over 40 percent each of the population – the arrest percentage is double the population percentage of African Americans.

    At every level, the consequences of our war on drugs have fallen disproportionately on African-Americans. Increasingly, the country is beginning to realize the impact of this has gone far beyond simple unfairness.  Far too many young African-American men are ending up with prison records that thwart employment opportunities, keep individuals and families in poverty and increase the likelihood of turning to crime in the absence of the prospect of a legitimate job.

    The community already is engaged in an important discussion of whether there are racial disparities in law enforcement. Durham has a reputation for confronting these kinds of issues with honest, open debate. Bonfield’s report, and the subsequent police examination for which he has asked, should give us an opportunity to do that on marijuana enforcement.

    FADE coalition

    FADE Coalition Statement on Durham Racial Profiling Report

    OFFICIAL FADE COALITION STATEMENT ON THE CITY MANAGER’S REPORT:

    We have all witnessed this week in Ferguson, MO, what can happen when a police department becomes unaccountable to the community it serves. Many commentators have pointed to the city’s stop, search, and arrest statistics, while noting that the situation unfolding in Missouri reflects a deep-seated frustration in the city’s African-American community about police harassment and excessive force.

    Those frustrations also exist here in Durham, where we have also seen teargas on our streets, and where the racial disparities in law enforcement are even more pronounced than they are in Ferguson. The City Manager’s recommendations, while a step in the right direction, will not change that. While we are glad to see the city finally embrace data review as a management tool to catch problem officers, the City Manager has rejected the HRC recommendation that stood the best chance of measurably reducing large racial disparities in warrantless vehicle searches—the adoption of an across-the-board mandatory written consent-to-search policy. The policy changes relating to home and premises searches are positive developments, but they will not impact most citizen-police interactions, which occur in the context of vehicle stops.

    The department has asserted that requiring consent to search be documented in writing during traffic stops would undermine officers’ “situational control,” but this is a false argument. Many police departments that have committed to eliminating racial profiling have embraced this policy without a correlative negative effect on law enforcement. The current policy, which the City Manager would leave unchanged, privileges the convenience of police officers over the right of Durham citizens to be free of racially discriminatory search practices. And the Manager’s decision to make the Department write a report explaining why it only seems to arrest black people for marijuana will make for interesting reading, but it will do nothing to stop the ongoing racial discrimination in drug enforcement.

    This report would not exist but for the fact that the Mayor directed the Human Relations Commission to investigate racial discrimination by the police, and yet this report says very little about the issue of race. You cannot have a race neutral solution to a race-based problem. We continue to believe that racial equity considerations—and not the practices of “peer cities”—should guide the city’s deliberations. We hope that when City Council takes this issue up later this month that they keep this in the forefront of their minds.

    –FADE Coalition

    ———————————————————————————

    The five FADE Coalition policy recommendations, proposed to City Council in September 2013 are as follows:

    (1) Mandate use of written consent-to-search forms for all consent based searches.

    (2) Designate marijuana enforcement the city’s lowest law enforcement priority.

    (3) Mandate the periodic review of racial stop, search, and arrest data as an officer management tool.

    (4) Mandate racial equity training for all Durham police officers.

    (5) Strengthen the mandate and authority of the Durham Civilian Police Review Board.

    These recommendations have been endorsed by the following organizations: ACLU of North Carolina; Action NC; Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People; Durham Congregations in Action; Durham Congregations, Associations & Neighborhoods (CAN); Durham N.A.A.C.P.; Durham People’s Alliance; George H. White Bar Association; NC Public Defenders’ Committee on Racial Equity; Southern Coalition for Social Justice; Southerners on New Ground (SONG).

     

    Employment Opportunity Legal Corps

    Position Announcement: Employment Opportunity Legal Corps Staff Attorney

    Employment Opportunity Legal Corps Staff Attorney (2 positions available)

    The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) has an immediate opening for two licensed attorneys to work in our Clean Slate Program. These positions are available through generous funding from Equal Justice Works and AmeriCorps for their Employment Opportunity Legal Corps. The positions are for one year, with the option to renew for a second year. The positions will exclusively focus on improving the employment opportunities and outcomes of people with criminal records via tools such as Certificates of Relief, Expungements, Driver’s License Restorations, and Professional License Restorations. Click here for the complete SCSJ Employment Opportunity Legal Corps Attorney job description.

    Background:

    SCSJ is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in August, 2007 whose mission is to promote justice by empowering people of color and economically disadvantaged communities to defend and advance their political, social and economic rights. SCSJ’s focus areas are community-driven, and currently include voting rights, criminal justice reform, environmental justice, and human rights.  For more information on our work and our unique community lawyering approach, visit our website at www.scsj.org.

    Required Qualifications:

    • Licensed to practice law in the State of North Carolina
    • Passion for helping people with criminal convictions overcome barriers to employment
    • Ability to work as part of a multi-disciplinary team
    • Ability to work with minimal paralegal support (all attorneys share a single paralegal)
    • Commitment to social justice principles and to SCSJ’s community-lawyering model of practice

    This job does not require previous legal experience, but candidates must already be licensed to practice law in the state of North Carolina in order to be considered.

    Start Date:  September 2014. Location:  SCSJ’s office in Durham, North Carolina. An Employment Opportunity Legal Corps Staff Attorney Job description is available HERE

    Compensation:

    Equal Justice Works provides a $24,200 living allowance and supplemental benefits package for Employment Opportunity Legal Corps participants. The total compensation package is up to $48,000 based on eligible expenses as determined by Equal Justice Works, and includes the following:

    • $24,200 Living Allowance
    • Housing allowance
    • Eligibility to place all qualified student loans into forbearance and receive an interest accrual payment at the end of service
    • $5,500 education award on successful completion of service
    • Opportunity to attend a national training program to develop leadership skills, learn effective practices to accomplish your projects and meet colleagues from across the country
    • Child care assistance (if income eligible)
    • Medical and dental insurance
    • State and local bar dues
    • Mileage reimbursement and per diem when applicable
    • Retirement plan contribution
    • Training and continuing legal education in relevant areas

    TO APPLY:

    Candidates should send a cover letter, resume and legal writing sample to Shannah@scsj.org. Applicants are encouraged to visit our website at www.scsj.org to learn more about the organization. Successful candidates will undergo state, federal, and NSLPR background checks prior to formal offer.

    Positions will be filled on a rolling basis.