When I first heard of the Prisoner Civil Rights Mediation Clinic, I knew that I wanted to join the Clinic. My interest in joining the Prisoner Civil Rights Mediation Clinic stemmed from my research and work on the criminal justice system prior to law school. I had heard of prison conditions and knew plenty about collateral consequence, but the Clinic provided a different experience.
Firstly, the Clinic provided practical legal experience in interviewing, mediation work, and legal writing. As students, we had the opportunity to work with magistrate judges in the United States District Court, Eastern District of California and observe mediations between prisoners and the Attorney General.
Secondly, we were connected to pro se prisoner litigants and assisted them in understanding the mediation process. We also learned about prison conditions and legal resources available to prisoners in cases of abuse. Although we worked closely with the magistrate judges and were neutral to the proceeding, I felt that we made an impact on the prisoner. We were there to hear and understand their side to the proceeding and relay it to the mediator. As such, it was important to recognize the power dynamics between the pro se prisoner litigant and the Attorney General. We were not advocates, but we facilitated and contributed to a fair proceeding on both sides.
I appreciate working on the cases I was assigned to in the Clinic because I felt that I supported the entire process while gaining significant experience. I learned the importance of creating rapport with the interviewee to gain important information and help with mediation. The criminal justice system can be a means of injustice, especially to communities of color. However, education about criminal justice issues and creating safeguards to people impacted by the system may combat some of these injustices.
The Prisoner Civil Rights Mediation Clinic is a unique experience to legal studies that I am glad had been a part of my law school experience.
By Julienne Correa, a third-year law student at McGeorge School of Law.