Race and Re-entry Initiative

Tackling Employment Discrimination against People with Criminal Records in South Los Angeles


The communities of South Los Angeles have the highest concentration of parolees and people with conviction records in the nation.  Approximately 35,000 people return home on parole each year to Los Angeles County with the blighted conditions of South Los Angeles as their primary destination.  These women, men and youth, many of whom were incarcerated for non-violent crimes, return home to face tremendous institutional and societal challenges, including notably, rules, laws and policies that prevent them from gaining access to the necessary resources-- employment, housing and government assistance-- to successfully reenter society.

To meet this unprecedented need, in 2007, the UCLA School of Law launched the first Reentry Legal Clinic in Southern California with community partner A New Way of Life (ANWOL).  To date, the program has served nearly 1,400 clients.  Each month up to 70 law students participate in a monthly clinic where they (1) provide direct legal services under various clean slate remedies in law (such as Petitions for Dismissal and expungement of criminal records)  to help clients obtain jobs, housing and occupational licenses and (2) screen and identify possible unenforced legal rights.  The program’s success has been remarkable – for example, 90% of the Petitions for Dismissal have been granted by the courts.  This work has allowed over a thousand clients – and in turn their families – to have a better chance to secure employment, housing, healthcare and to reduce recidivism.  In some cases, the clinic’s efforts have allowed clients to regain custody of their children, making families and communities whole.