Prison Law Office (California)

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Prison-law-office-california
Headquarters Location: Berkeley, CA
Founded: 1976


Mission: The Prison Law Office provides free legal services to California state prisoners, and occasionally to California state parolees. Our assistance is generally limited to cases regarding conditions of confinement. Further, the office does not typically assist or represent prisoners in lawsuits in which money damages are the primary objective. Instead, the office focuses on cases in which a change in conditions is sought. The office attempts to resolve such cases informally, if possible (by advocating to prison officials), or through formal litigation.


Tags: public interest law firm, california, legal representation, public education, litigation, prison conditions, 2011


Prison-law-office-california
Story: California's prisons remain dangerously overcrowded at 195% of design capacity with over 160,000 prisoners crammed into 33 institutions, plus another 10,000 prisoners housed out-of-state and in community facilities. Basic necessities of life, such as medical and mental health care, are… Read the full story.

Expert Reviews: Evidence of Impact
The Prison Law Office has made major changes in criminal justice policies through successful litigation efforts, especially a recent one that reached the Supreme Court.
See the complete expert review.

Leadership
Prison-law-office-california Donald Specter. Donald Specter has been Director of the Prison Law Office, based in San Quentin, California, since 1984. Mr. Specter manages and directs the legal and administrative operations of a nonprofit 11 attorney office providing free legal services to California state prisoners. Mr. Specter has been lead counsel in numerous successful institutional reform litigation, with assistance from major Bay Area law… See full bio.


Financial Data
Total Revenue:
$5,549,999


From the Nonprofit
The nonprofit has not added any comments yet. If you are a representative of this nonprofit and would like to leave a comment, please email us at feedback@myphilanthropedia.org with your request.


Contact Info
E-Mail:
Phone:
510-280-2621
Facebook:
Follow_fb
Address:
1917 Fifth Street
 
Berkeley, CA 94710, USA
Twitter:
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Prison-law-office-california Story: California's prisons remain dangerously overcrowded at 195% of design capacity with over 160,000 prisoners crammed into 33 institutions, plus another 10,000 prisoners housed out-of-state and in community facilities. Basic necessities of life, such as medical and mental health care, are often lacking. Prisoners with disabilities are not recognized as disabled, and many are not provided reasonable accommodations as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Through both individual and impact litigation, the Prison Law Office has changed many California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation policies and practices, and has alleviated many of the cruel and unusual conditions that have been inflicted upon tens of thousands of state prisoners.

Expert Reviews of Prison Law Office (California)

Evidence of Impact Summary:

The Prison Law Office has made major changes in criminal justice policies through successful litigation efforts, especially a recent one that reached the Supreme Court.
See expert comments.

Organization Strengths Summary:

Experts agree that the primary strength of this organization is its well-known, intelligent, and hard-working staff and leadership.
See expert comments.

Areas for Improvement Summary:

The Prison Law Office could benefit from expanding into the provision of more legal services and from a more efficient allocation of resources.
See expert comments.

Expert Comments: Evidence of Impact

Select the boxes to display the results according to expert type.

Show:
X
Foundation Professionals (F)
X
Researchers and Faculty (R)
X
Nonprofit Senior Staff (N)
X
Other (consultants, journalists, policy makers) (O)

High Impact Litigation

O
Most recently, the Prison Law Project co-counseled a lawsuit which made its way to the US Supreme Court where life and death issues affecting prisoners were favorably resolved. A part of the lawsuit had been in the courts for more than 15 years while an average of 1 prisoner lost his life unnecessarily each week during recent years. A woefully deficient prison health care system was incapable of addressing the basic needs of the more than 177,000 people CA incarcerated. The Supreme Court upheld a strongly contested order of a three-judge district court panel (affirmed by the Federal Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit) in a 5 t0 4 decision which requires CA to make adequate medical care provision for the prison population or to reduce the prison population sufficiently to achieve that objective.
R
They have had significant class action impact litigation outcomes, especially the recent Plata v. Brown decision by the Supreme Court.
R
They have had an impact through CA prison litigation.
N
It conducts litigation to improve California's prison system at both the adult and juvenile level. It has had successful lawsuits resulting in consent decrees to reform the facilities (eg. Farrell v. Cate).
N
Their case against the California Department of Corrections, which was recently decided favorably by the Supreme Court, would protect the health and safety of California prisoners by enforcing a population cap to reduce the prison population by about 40,000 prisoners over the next 2 years. This litigation was historic and a huge success over a cruel and damaging prison system.


Expert Comments: Organization Strengths

Select the boxes to display the results according to expert type.

Show:
X
Foundation Professionals (F)
X
Researchers and Faculty (R)
X
Nonprofit Senior Staff (N)
X
Other (consultants, journalists, policy makers) (O)

Influential Leadership

O
Don Specter is a lawyer who has led the Prison Law Office for more than 2 decades. He is a highly skilled advocate and an exceptional leader. In addition, Don has recruited pro bono assistance for his clients from a number of highly respected attorneys and law firms, extending the organization's limited resources, none of which comes from the State.

Excellent Staff

N
The staff are extremely dedicated to CA prison issues and extremely competent.
R
They have brilliant attorneys.
N
They have a strong mission and several expert attorneys on staff.
N
The leadership of the Law Office has decades of experience in prison litigation and the impressive ability to successfully litigate such a monumental class action lawsuit. The staff is well-respected nationally for its litigation abilities within the advocacy community. Their work has successfully garnered extensive media coverage.


Expert Comments: Areas for Improvement

Select the boxes to display the results according to expert type.

Show:
X
Foundation Professionals (F)
X
Researchers and Faculty (R)
X
Nonprofit Senior Staff (N)
X
Other (consultants, journalists, policy makers) (O)

More Legal Services

N
They could give direct advocacy for individual prisoners' cases rather than class actions and provide attorney referral service.

More Efficient Use of Resources

N
They are trying to diversify into technical assistance for direct programming - this is not their area of expertise. Since there are so many more appropriate avenues that they could be pursuing, this is not the best use of their resources.


Leadership

Prison-law-office-california
Donald Specter
Executive Director
Donald Specter has been Director of the Prison Law Office, based in San Quentin, California, since 1984. Mr. Specter manages and directs the legal and administrative operations of a nonprofit 11 attorney office providing free legal services to California state prisoners. Mr. Specter has been lead counsel in numerous successful institutional reform litigation, with assistance from major Bay Area law firms, through federal and state class actions challenging various conditions of confinement system-wide at all 32 state prisons, and at individual prisons, including Pelican Bay, San Quentin, and Vacaville. Mr. Specter also has an extensive appellate practice, including one argument before the U.S. Supreme Court, six arguments before the California Supreme Court (two death penalty cases), numerous prison conditions cases and criminal appeals before state and federal appellate courts. He has been chair of the State Bar's Commission on Corrections, has spoken to local and national audiences of attorneys and correctional officials, and is frequently interviewed by the local and national media. Mr. Specter earned his B.A. in Economics from New College in Florida in 1974 and his J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 1978.

From the Nonprofit

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