For more than thirty years, the Post-Conviction Justice Project has represented thousands of clients before state and federal parole boards, and in both the state and federal court systems. For the past twenty years, students in the Project have represented state prisoners, mostly women incarcerated at the California Institution for Women, serving life-term sentences for murder convictions. Many committed crimes related to a history of physical or sexual abuse, and some were convicted for killing their abusers. PCJP client Rose Parker, now Dr. Rose Parker-Sterling, was one of only three life-term inmates to be released on parole under then-Governor Gray Davis. Her release in 2000 marked the first in an ever-growing number of PCJP clients to be released.
In 2008, PCJP students prevailed in a habeas challenge to parole denial on behalf of long-time client Sandra Davis-Lawrence in the California Supreme Court. The Lawrence decision was the first case where the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of an inmate in a parole case. The Project’s victory in Lawrence changed the landscape of judicial review in parole habeas challenges. At the time of the Lawrence decision, twenty-one PCJP clients had been released from prison. In the last five years, another sixty-one clients have been released through grants of parole or habeas challenges. The vast majority of thesse women and men are giving back to their communities through drug counseling, work with at-risk youth, and various religious organizations.
PCJP’s most recently released client, Mary Jones, served nearly 33 years for crimes committed by her batterer.
Currently, the Project represents fifty clients at the California Institution for Women and other state prisons across California.