Today we celebrate DC Emancipation Day, marking the DC Compensation Emancipation Act of 1862. Signed by President Lincoln on April 16, it ended slavery in the District and freed 3,100 individuals.
In partnership with each of you, the DC Bar Foundation (DCBF) carries the values of abolition forward every day, promoting liberty, freedom, and justice for ALL District residents. That includes some of the most marginalized and forgotten of our neighbors.
Louis Sawyer was one of them.
A local resident convicted of a felony in the District, Mr. Sawyer served 25 years shuffled across the country, from DC to prisons in the states of Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia. And, like most incarcerated individuals who must appear before a parole board where life-changing decisions are made, Mr. Sawyer had no legal representation at his first hearing. Despite having maintained a good record during incarceration and preparing on his own for the hearing, he was denied parole.
Having a lawyer can make all the difference. When he next went before the parole board, with an attorney from our grantee, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, he gained parole. And Mr. Sawyer began a new chapter in which he returned the District, regained employment, purchased a home in Ward 7, and became a respected advocate for prisoner issues including family unification, barriers to successful re-entry, and outreach at the office of the DC Attorney General. Today, he helps others like him create a better tomorrow.
DC has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country. And more than 92% of DC prisoners are African American, coming from our poorest sectors – the same sectors frequently denied adequate housing, education, and decent jobs. Yet those District residents convicted of felonies are housed in prisons hundreds or thousands of miles from DC, sometimes in unsafe conditions, and with lack of local DC control over their parole. Most will return home to the District and are not prepared for reentry. This cycle hurts our entire community.
Resources for prisoner advocacy are extremely scarce. It is why, with YOUR support, we are committed to funding vital prisoners’ work. With DCBF funding, grantees like the Washington Lawyers’ Committee can respond to hundreds of requests for help from DC prisoners, engage in important litigation, and secure the release of dozens of long-term prisoners through parole advocacy.
The need is great, to achieve justice for ALL. Thank you for standing with us and District neighbors like Louis Sawyer on Emancipation Day and every day.
Kirra L. Jarratt
GJ had more than a dozen arrests spanning two decades, each directly related to his lifelong battle with alcohol and drug abuse. Many years ago, with a deep desire to change his life for the better, GJ underwent intensive substance abuse rehabilitation to combat his addition. Once sober, GJ began to seek a better life for himself. However, for years his criminal record blocked him from building that better life. GJ worked with one of our grantee’s attorneys over the course of two years to have his criminal history successfully cleared from his record.
Since having his record expunged, GJ has received multiple job offers; offers that he may not have had otherwise. GJ no longer has to bear the burden of his criminal record and can move forward.
When an individual’s criminal record gets expunged, it provides a chance to re-enter society without the stigma of past convictions. It increases their opportunities to meet essential needs like public assistance, housing, and employment, which their previous criminal record may prevent. The expungement process gives hope and has a direct, concrete impact on a positive future.
To learn more about how our grantees change lives for our District neighbors, please visit our website.
Many individuals in our DC community need legal resources. But often, those resources are out of reach. When you support our 2019 Call to Action campaign, you join with others who share your commitment to equal access to justice. Together, you help your District neighbors get the vital legal representation they need.
We want to thank the organizations who have already joined our 2019 Call to Action campaign. The generous support of our law firm and corporate donors continues to strengthen DC’s legal aid network and provide life-changing legal assistance to the city’s poor and underserved residents.
We would especially like to recognize this year’s Platinum Level Call to Action donors:
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
Alston & Bird LLP
Boies Schiller Flexner LLP
Eversheds Sutherland (US) LLP
Sidley Austin LLP
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
These organizations each contributed $25,000 or more this year through Call to Action!
If your firm has not yet become a leader in our Call to Action campaign, please join us today by donating online or filling out our printable donation form. A current list of all participating firms can be found on ourwebsite.
Calling all Lip Sync for Justice Sponsors!
Want to make a difference for your DC neighbors in need and have a great time doing it? Become an event sponsor for Lip Sync for Justice – an evening of networking, karaoke, lip sync, and fun that brings individuals across DC’s legal sector together in support of civil legal aid. You can choose from six unique sponsorship levels – corporate and individual – making this an accessible opportunity for all. Become an event sponsor by filling out our sponsorship form. All proceeds from this special event support the Foundation’s work ensuring equal access to justice. Individual tickets are available for purchase here.
Save the Date: President’s Reception May 14
The Foundation hosts our annual President’s Reception on Tuesday, May 14, where we will honor the esteemed members of our 77 Society – loyal donors who give $1,000 or more to the Foundation each year. To become a member of the 77 Society and attend our President’s Reception, please make or pledge your total gift of $1,000 or more before May 14. For more information, please firstname.lastname@example.org
Apply for 2019 LRAP
DC residents: Are you committed to serving the most vulnerable people in our community? If you work for one of our eligible employers and provide free legal services to low income residents, we may be able to assist you with our 2019 Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP). Applications are due October 25, 2019. To learn more and to see if you qualify, visit our information page.
Searching for a Rewarding Career?
Are you interested in helping to provide equal access to justice in the District? The DC Bar Foundation is hiring for individuals to join our hardworking team. Apply today!
Each month we highlight an individual working to make the justice system more accessible to DC residents. This month features Calvin Robinson, Program Officer at the DC Bar Foundation.
Years on the Job
Where did you grow up?
Between Newport News, Virginia and Savannah, Georgia
What brought you to DC?
What was your first job in DC and what did you learn?
Working at a Federal Agency taught me how to work with different kinds of people to meet a goal.
Blasting music in my apartment after work.
Masa Sushi and Hibachi
Favorite Vacation Spot
Playing tennis, running and sleeping
Your News Source(s)
MSNBC, Reuters and NPR
One thing (other than your phone) you never leave your house without is…
The most rewarding element of your work
Seeing the impact we are having in DC.
Legal aid is important to me because…
I believe it’s a right for all.