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 education and careers for those who have been directly impacted by the criminal legal system. Our goal is to help open the door to creating positive change in a system that tends to stigmatize and marginalize poor people and people of color. In collaboration with formerly incarcerated people and other stakeholders, we research barriers to law school admission, job-search success, and bar passage, while continuing to advocate for fairer admissions practices at law schools and better bar examination processes.
Prison Teaching Project
This project involves teaching people incarcerated in New York state prisons legal research skills. Each semester we conduct a seven-week course on site at prison classrooms and libraries.
EPIC instruction largely mirrors what students learn in Lawyering, making it the perfect activity for a 1L. It gives students a chance to get involved in something important without overloading an already busy schedule. Every member of EPIC is expected to co-teach a lesson at a women's prison in the downstate area. EPIC participants teach in pairs: for one facility they will travel to the prison in the morning via commuter rail and return by late afternoon; the other is just a short subway trip away. 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. Take the opportunity to share your 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.
St. Francis Partnership Project
This reentry program partners NYU Law students with an amazing group of formerly-incarcerated college students who have scholarships through the Post-Prison College Opportunity Program at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights. The Post-Prison College Opportunity Program 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.
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.