Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC), formerly the "Prison Reform and Education Project,"* works to organize opportunities for NYU Law students to engage in programming that works with and for justice-impacted communities. We aim to interrogate the racist underpinnings of the criminal legal system and better ourselves as legal advocates. We work in collaboration with organizers to provide greater access to higher education for justice-impacted people; we advocate for changes in laws and policies that bar justice-impacted people from accessing legal careers, both at a state and school level; we work to facilitate greater understandings among our law school peers of the barriers that justice-impacted people face in their everyday lives; we amplify the voices of currently incarcerated individuals in solitary confinement and advocate for an end to the practice; we provide people who are currently incarcerated with the legal knowledge and skills to advocate for themselves.
EPIC has a number of different projects (see below), so there are lots of ways to get involved.
The Access Project aims to increase access to legal resources and the legal profession for those who have been directly impacted by the criminal legal system. Our goal is to help create change in a system that tends to stigmatize and marginalize low-income communities and communities of color. In collaboration with organizations centering formerly incarcerated people, we help disseminate know-your-rights information about the criminal legal system, while continuing to advocate for ending discriminatory admissions practices at law schools and eliminating character and fitness processes.
Prison Teaching Project
This project, in partnership with the Bernstein Institute at NYU and the Jailhouse Lawyers Initiative, involves teaching people incarcerated in New York state prisons legal research skills to prepare them to be law clerks and jailhouse lawyers. Each semester we conduct a ten-week course on site at prison classrooms and libraries.
This course largely mirrors what students learn in Lawyering, making it the perfect activity for law students, including 1Ls. Each member is expected to co-teach an evening lesson at a correctional facility in the downstate area. Past teachers can attest to the fact that the experience is challenging, interesting, and rewarding.
At a minimum, incarcerated people deserve the right to understand the system under which they are incarcerated, and this project serves as a way for us as law students to share our knowledge.
Solitary Confinement Project
Students interview people incarcerated in New York City Jails (mostly at Rikers Island), who have served time in either solitary confinement or restrictive housing. Students write and file grievances on behalf of clients and meet with clients to monitor incarceration conditions. Additionally, project participants read client testimony at Board of Corrections meetings. The project is currently evaluating how our advocacy to end solitary confinement can be of greatest benefit. We welcome input as we think through how to advance this effort. This is an excellent project for students who care deeply about criminal justice reform, mental health advocacy, and basic human rights. It is an especially valuable experience for aspiring public defenders, but no prior criminal law experience is required.
The Justice Initiative Project
This reentry program partners NYU Law students with an amazing group of formerly-incarcerated college students who have scholarships through the Justice Initiative at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights. The Justice Initiative at St. Francis College helps formerly-incarcerated students earn a degree through intensive student monitoring, ongoing assessment, and integrated social service supports within a rigorous college program. NYU Law students meet with St. Francis College students individually and participate in group meetings and events to provide students with support in fulfilling their personal goals, engaging with reentry-allied communities, and overcoming unique barriers they may encounter as a result of prior involvement with the criminal or juvenile justice systems.
The Advocacy Project fosters a culture of anti-carceral activism on campus. Last year, our work included a voter registration drive at Rikers Island. This year, we will expand, build new partnerships, and create more opportunities for students to get involved. We strive to serve organizations on the front lines of prison reform in any way they may ask, whether it be showing up at a rally, phone-banking, helping out with administrative work or providing legal research. While some initiatives are in the works (including an NYU-based Court Watch program), we invite students to join as co-leaders who will develop and maintain partnerships. We also welcome students who want to participate at any other level of involvement.
The Cop Accountability Project (CAP) is a partnership between the Legal Aid Society and EPIC, housed within EPIC’s Advocacy Project. The project aims to summarize and code complaints of police abuse so that they can be placed in a database, available at CAPstat.nyc, for public access. This database helps future litigants by making it easier to establish patterns of police misconduct within the NYPD. Doing so can help victims of police violence and misconduct to recover damages from the city or help support litigation making systemic challenges to policing. We are looking for student volunteers from any class year. For more information or to get involved, reach out to Advocacy Co-Chair Jordan Olson (email@example.com).
NYU Parole Advocacy is a student-led project created in collaboration with Appellate Advocates (AA) to address the parole preparation needs of AA’s clients. Through this project, law students are paired with an individual who is incarcerated in a New York state prison and who will be appearing before the Parole Board. Students communicate regularly with the individual they are paired with in order to support them in preparing for their Parole interview, which includes assembling a Parole Packet on their behalf, conducting mock interviews with them and connecting them to re-entry services. If you are interested in learning more or getting involved, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
SAFER (Student Advocates for Empowerment Through Harm Reduction)
SAFER is a student practice at NYU School of law that seeks to align legal practice with harm reduction. We work on-site at local harm reduction organizations, like the Washington Heights CORNER Project and VOCAL-NY, to connect drug users, sex workers, and the justice-impacted to an array of legal services and training. We organize, educate, and advocate to reduce the harms of unregulated capitalism and policing.
Events: All NYU Law students and community members are welcome to get involved with EPIC's advocacy efforts in New York and beyond. Please contact our leadership for more information (see "Contact Us" page).
PREP Scholarship Fund: In 2018, EPIC (then "PREP") helped to launch the NYU Law PREP Scholarship Fund, to help support students who have experienced the direct effects of the criminal legal system pursue their legal education at NYU Law. For more information visit: www.law.nyu.edu/NYULawPREPScholarship.