Decarceration Initiative Clinic

The United States is one of the only countries in the world that sentences children to life in prison. Beginning in 2010, the United States Supreme Court began limiting the ways in which courts can sentence children to a lifetime of incarceration and applied its decisions retroactively. Despite that progress, more than 400 individuals in Maryland are serving life or other extreme sentences for crimes that occurred when they were children.

In partnership with the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, student attorneys in the Decarceration Initiative Clinic will represent those individuals by filing motions for modification of sentence pursuant to a new Maryland law, the Juvenile Restoration Act. Student attorneys will have an opportunity to interview incarcerated clients, conduct fact investigation, work with experts such as social workers and other mental health clinicians, and draft and argue motions in Maryland’s circuit courts.  In addition to developing litigation skills, student attorneys in the Decarceration Initiative Clinic will explore the ways in which race and poverty are intertwined with punishment in Maryland’s legal system and will learn what it means to be a zealous client-centered advocate.