From Where We Are

Trojan Tales: USC’s Post-Conviction Justice Project provides the right to a second chance

Forty years on, the clinic of the Gould School of Law is fighting for the parole rights of long-time inmates who are paying their dues to society.

Few Trojans know of the Post-Conviction Justice Project (PCJP), a clinic of the law school that comprises JD students who work as student attorneys. They work for the parole rights of inmates, many of whom are serving life sentences. A blend of law application and human sentiment marks the clinic. It runs on the belief that people are able to change for the better.

One of those law students is Christopher Esposito. He says that before 2008, it was near impossible for an inmate to return home on parole. Under the wing of Professor Heidi Rummel, PCJP successfully argued for state parole reform with the backing of the Supreme Court. Today, Rummel still oversees the clinic, but it is the students who are the foundation.

Esposito had walked down a dangerous path in his youth and committed petty crimes as a minor. His personal need to better himself and give back to his community drives him to work for PCJP. Feet-on-the-street work is required as well, as the students travel all over California to train inmates for parole hearings. Esposito clarifies the misconception that criminals are being put back on the street: “We have a lot of clients whom we have extensively programmed, who have gotten their college degrees, who’ve shown they’re ready and we help give them that extra push.” The fixed definition of ‘criminal’ is constantly challenged by PCJP as complexities lie in a person’s struggle. It is a fight that they will continue.

Today’s Trojan Tales brings you closer to this hidden facet of USC.