Last week, our Senior Policy Analyst and Staff Attorney Sharlyn Grace was featured in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin for her pro bono work with the National Lawyers Guild of Chicago (log in required). In it, Sharlyn describes her volunteer role as a co-coordinator of the NLG Chicago’s Legal Observer Program, which monitors and documents police conduct towards protesters. Legal Observers also track arrests and help connect people with legal support after actions or events.
Sharlyn also shared with the Law Bulletin why it’s important to protect protesters’ rights in the street:
[M]ass mobilizations of people are part of progressive social change, that people having the ability to be safely in the streets, the ability to gather in dissent, is crucial for the sort of social change we want to see. It’s not going to be made by law and policy changes taking place in downtown by policy experts and attorneys.
At Chicago Appleseed, Sharlyn supports the work of our Criminal Justice Advisory Committee, a group of pro bono attorneys from numerous firms large and small and policy and advocacy nonprofits. As part of that work, Sharlyn helps coordinate a convening around monetary bond reform that brings law and policy organizations together with community-based groups to push comprehensive and progressive reforms.
Chicago Appleseed recognizes that while lawyers alone can’t lead the movement for criminal justice policy reform, we have important roles to play when joining forces with other advocates and supporting impacted communities. Appleseed and our pro bono volunteers through the Chicago Council of Lawyers have provided, leadership, legal research assistance, and policy expertise in meetings with justice system stakeholders. In addition, Sharlyn currently assists the Circuit Court of Cook County with the day-to-day procedures of the Access to Community Treatment (ACT) Court, as well as the HOPE Court, both funded through Adult Redeploy Illinois. She is also leading Chicago Appleseed’s efforts to expand the best practices policies and procedures of the ACT Court to other parts of the Circuit Court through the ACT Initiative. Chicago Appleseed was instrumental in planning and helping the Court implement the ACT Court. Sharlyn also represents Chicago Appleseed on a working group of the currently forming Restorative Justice Community Court in North Lawndale.
Currently, CJAC members are mobilizing to address privacy violations within the Cook County Clerk’s office, the harmful impact that fines, fees, and court costs have on people in the criminal justice system and their families, and other issues related to fairness and accessibility of the courts. If you are interested in getting involved with the Criminal Justice Advisory Committee, please email Sharlyn or Executive Director Malcolm Rich.