As a young girl, Jordan Huttenlocker dreamed of being a veterinarian. Over the years, however, her ambitions shifted, and she eventually became a lawyer, practicing medical malpractice defense. For a time, this was the perfect marriage of her interests. But after eight years of working as a full-time attorney at a large firm in Chicago, Jordan and her husband decided to move back to Ft. Wayne. Jordan took a step back from her career to focus on raising their two small children. Soon, however, she sought part-time employment again. “I realized I really did miss practicing law,” she says. Read more
The words, “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way!” are stenciled on the far office wall of the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic’s Expungement Help Desk. These words also comprise a message we try to convey to those who step through our doors in the basement of the City County Building. Our visitors are ready to leave their past behind in search of a second chance. Perhaps they are unable to find a good job or a nice apartment to call home. Or perhaps they are prevented from seeking educational opportunities for career and life advancement. Read more
This summer, Van Sui assisted in our Immigrant Justice Program for her internship, helping with contacting clients and providing Burmese translations and interpretation. Currently a senior at Taylor University, she hopes to pursue Law School in the future. "I would like to gain experiences while pursuing my further education in U.S.," she says. "After, I would want to actively involve in Burma government with all my abilities in the processes of transitioning into a democracy country." She loved her opportunity to work at the Clinic, melding her career goals with her faith. She says, "It was interesting and inspiring to see the organization not only standing for Psalm 82:3-4, but practically applying it by assisting with various issues and standing up for vulnerable people with love, care, and passion." Read more
According to a study from the Center for Criminal Justice Research, part of the Indiana University Public Policy Initiative, even a 1% decrease in Marion County's recidivism rate could save taxpayers $1.5 million. To help support the work of Project GRACE, please consider making a donation this #GivingTuesday. Read more
This five-part video series explores the challenges faced by those who re-enter society after prison, as well as the power they can reclaim over their own lives through expungement and specialized driving privileges. Read more
Too often, a criminal record strips people of their power in our society. Some can’t find a job; some can’t drive. Some lose contact with their families; some have nowhere to live. Instead of talking to them, people end up talking about them. It’s dehumanizing and demoralizing--and that’s not how the Clinic wants to talk about our clients. Read more
The gangs in Honduras began harassing Ana* when she was only 14. But after being abandoned by both of her parents when she was young, Ana’s support system was minimal. Beta Martinez, who works in the Clinic’s Immigrant Justice Program, says that the gangs waited for Ana to leave school in the afternoons. “They were telling her, ‘You need to be ours,’” she says.
Serious crimes and convictions only make up 15% to 20% of the approximately 45,000 charges filed every year. Therefore, for the MCPO, protecting the public means dealing with lesser crimes in a more innovative way. “The idea is if you can address those problems of criminogenic needs then perhaps you can get them back on a straight path. You can’t just address the drug problem; you can’t just address the alcohol problem; you can’t just address the mental health needs,” Andrew says. “You’ve also got to work with different groups and agencies so that you can help them find a better place to live, get a job—which is not just a job, it’s something that’s more career oriented for them. Try to help them keep their families together.”
From the age of 11, Sha’na knew she wanted to be an attorney. “I watched a movie called Separate but Equal with Thurgood Marshall and documenting the whole Brown vs. Board of Education decision,” she says. “That was the first time I realized how much influence and power attorneys had to make change, and so I knew I wanted to be a part of that.” For years, Sha’na worked towards that goal, graduating from college and then Law School—ultimately passing the bar examination earlier this year.
Of course, the work of a receptionist at a non-profit legal clinic can be daunting. Often, the clients who come to the front window seeking aid are embroiled in high-stakes legal issues regarding their immigration status, impending Sheriff Sales on their homes, or an expungement that would finally allow them to get a job and thus support their family. Alicia does not view her position as wholly difficult though. In fact, she says, “Everyone tells me my job is so hard and I just keep thinking, ‘This is the best job I’ve ever had.’ I love it.” When she does encounter a difficult client, or someone who is in a dire situation and who might direct that fear or frustration towards her, Alicia turns to her faith. She takes a deep breath and says a prayer for patience and for the words necessary to help the person in front of her.
One of the Center’s main programs, “Strong Fathers, Strong Families,” is a three-week intensive course where fathers are taught about parenting, child development, child support, relationships, financial literacy, job readiness, anger and conflict resolution, and communication, along with a host of other things. Dr. McLaughlin says, “We are hoping in that three weeks to really try to give them everything we can holistically to help them assess and access responsible fathering.” Many of the young men that go through the program grew up without any strong models of fatherhood and find themselves struggling to juggle the many responsibilities that being a father brings. Dr. McLaughlin says, “We realized that fathers—especially teen fathers—were not dead beat; they were dead broke.”
Over the years, things started looking up for Debra and she was eventually able to turn her life around. She found a job. She got married and then had two children, leaving her old life decades behind her. In fact, when she came to our office seeking assistance with sealing her criminal record, Project GRACE staff attorney, Carlton Martin, says, “She had not committed a crime in almost 20 years.”
Latosha was then faced with the dilemma of needing to find another job, but with something on her criminal record from much earlier, she was worried about her chances of getting hired elsewhere. Over the years, she’d never even tried. She explains, “I’ve kind of been stuck at the same job for like 16 years, but I always stayed there because of my background. I didn’t think I could go nowhere else.”