Demographics & Process
SJP attorneys have represented 76 clients. At the time of representation, our clients are on average 18 and a half years old, predominately from wards 7 and 8 (41% of all clients) or homeless (19%). 96% of clients served have identified as Black and 4% as Latino; 88% have identified as male and 12% as female.
Our clients are introduced to SJP through a variety of sources. including referrals and court-appointments. We have received over 100 referrals since opening doors. For those we had capacity to accept, the sources included students, lawyers, probation officers, schools, and the court. Specifically, the 2016 final source breakdown was: Current or former clients (28%), defense attorneys (25%), education attorneys (12%), or community-based service providers (includes civil legal service providers) (18%). The remainder of our clients come from other practitioners, the court, and schools.
Education and Employment
In 2016, 87% of SJP clients were enrolled in an education program, including 60% of clients enrolling immediately upon release from secure detention or incarceration. Nearly 75% of SJP clients remain enrolled for 90-days post-enrollment. Once enrolled, 77% of SJP clients demonstrate improved attendance and 81% demonstrate improved grades. The vast majority of clients earned credits toward their high school diploma, and by the end of the current school year, we anticipate another 5 clients graduating or obtaining a GED. 95% of SJP clients demonstrate increased knowledge of post- secondary planning. Although there are many barriers to finding employment while trying to finish high school after age 18, our clients demonstrate commitment to doing both by continuing to seek out jobs or participating in subsidized employment programs. 78% of SJP clients are engaged in the labor force, as defined by actively seeking employment, engaged in a job program, or engaged in subsidized employment. 30% of SJP clients have secured unsubsidized employment.
Empowerment, Leadership, and Community
SJP’s model values self-advocacy and student empowerment. As their engagement in the legal services and advocacy process grows, clients begin understanding their rights and show increased agency and self-confidence. 92% of SJP clients report increased empowerment, as measured by self-expressions of feeling comfortable speaking at special education or other school meetings and initiating ways for his/her voice to be heard. This also manifests in students taking on major tasks without an attorney either doing it for them or accompanying them. Examples include clients securing vital documents, enrolling in school, or touring programs on their own and reporting back. 100% of SJP clients have an increased understanding of rights. With increased empowerment and understanding of rights, we have seen 57% of clients show increased civic engagement through registering to vote, completing community service hours, or securing identification cards. 25% of clients pursued leadership roles in the classroom or community.
This year, we filed two state complaints that resulted in individual and systemic relief for our clients. Most recently, we filed a complaint on behalf of students incarcerated in D.C. Jail. The complaint was against 3 government agencies and, after an investigation, Letters of Decision was issued. The LODs outlined 11 systemic and student-level violations against District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). To correct the systemic violations, DCPS was ordered to ensure that all students receive specialized instruction.
In addition, the three agencies must enter into an agreement outlining how they will identify youth who are eligible to be enrolled in school once they arrive at DC Jail and ensure timely enrollment. The agreement must also outline how youth will receive education services while in segregation. On an individual level, the Letters of Decision ordered the agencies to provide SJP’s three named clients with a minimum of 974 hours of tutoring, behavioral support services, speech-language pathology, and transition services. This translates to about $68,000 worth of services.
During 2016, we conducted 14 legal trainings and presentations to over 2,200 individuals including judges, lawyers, students, and community members. The trainings include quarterly trainings for D.C. Superior Court, D.C. Superior Court’s Annual Family Court Conference, presentations to Georgetown Law School and George Washington Law School, a training for probation officers, and a training for students detained in D.C.’s long-term juvenile justice facility.