January 2014
In This Issue
Reentry Clinics Expand
Ordinance Supports Fair Chances
Meet the IP Fellows
Efforts to Restore Oportunity


Click the video to learn about  how Columbia Legal Services' four advocacy projects work for justice.





Columbia Legal Services advocates for people who face injustice and poverty.  We seek social and economic justice for all, using policy reform, litigation, and innovative partnerships to reveal and end actions that harm the communities we serve.


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Columbia Legal Services is a member of Washington's Alliance for Equal Justice, a statewide network of civil legal aid programs serving low-income communities in Washington.  To support the statewide network of legal aid programs, click the icon below.


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Melissa Lee 

Dear Friend,


The Institutions Project (IP) is pleased to share highlights of our recent work. Our team is making great strides to improve the lives of thousands of institutionalized and formerly institutionalized people across the state. From better conditions for people in prisons and jails to better futures for people reentering their communities after criminal justice involvement, our unique approach to systemic change is paying off.
Melissa Lee
Coordinating Attorney
Institutions Project

Institutions Project Advocacy Focus


The Institutions Project represents people confined in Washington's jails, prisons, juvenile detention facilities, mental health facilities, and facilities for individuals with developmental disabilities. Our representation focuses on institutional conditions of confinement, discrimination, sentencing and placement, alternatives to institutionalization, and access to courts, as well as issues related to rehabilitation, reentry, and reductions in recidivism. 

Reentry Clinics Expand Opportunities
Photo courtesy of FareStart. 

Since 2011, IP has held free legal clinics to help low-income people who have been involved with the criminal justice system navigate legal issues surrounding their Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs are the fees, fines, and restitution resulting from a criminal conviction).


With funding from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and Legal Foundation of Washington, IP is excited to expand these clinics to address access to employment and housing in addition to LFOs.


The support also allows IP to partner with FareStart, a culinary job training and placement program for homeless and disadvantaged individuals in Seattle. Through this partnership, we will offer training and special legal clinics for FareStart students. The FareStart clinic will be held on the fourth Tuesday of every month at 2:30 p.m. beginning January 28th, 2014, at the FareStart offices.


IP will continue to host reentry clinics for the community on the second Monday of each month at 2:45 p.m. at the Public Law Library of King County in the County Courthouse, 516 3rd Ave., Suite W621, Seattle, WA.


For more information or to volunteer, please contact Sonja Demco at Sonja.Demco@columbialegal.org. 

Jobs Assistance Ordinance Supports a Fair Chance



The Institutions Project spearheaded the effort to enact the new Seattle Jobs Assistance Ordinance, which helps well-qualified men and women find jobs and reintegrate into society after involvement with the criminal justice system.  


A growing body of evidence links job access with reduced recidivism rates. Thus, a fair chance at employment can result in stronger communities and fewer tax dollars spent.   

The ordinance limits the ways in which arrest and conviction records can be used in employment decisions in Seattle so all applicants have an opportunity to showcase their qualifications.

For more information about the Seattle Jobs Assistance Ordinance, see the Seattle Office for Civil Rights website. The ordinance took effect on November 1st, 2013. 

Fellowships for Change  


Two IP team members have been recognized with fellowships this year: Nick Allen, a Youth Justice Leadership Institute fellow, and Andra Kranzler, a 2011 Justice in Action fellow. 

Nick Allen
Nick Allen's fellowship project builds on IP's existing legislative advocacy on juvenile justice reform. He continues to work towards policies that change the way youth are transferred to and sentenced in the adult criminal justice system.


Andra Kranzler visits a job site.

Andra Kranzler has been deeply involved with obtaining enforceable fair hiring standards on construction projects in Seattle and South King County. As part of her fellowship, Andra worked with  Got Green and the Construction Jobs Equity Coalition to negotiate a community workforce agreement on the Elliot Bay Seawall Project. 



Restoring Opportunity: CROP
Merf Ehman and Melissa Lee speak at the CROP Launch. 

During this 2014 legislative session, IP is excited to be partnering with the King County Prosecuting Attorney on proposed legislation that would establish Certificates of Restoration of Opportunity (CROP) for rehabilitated individuals with criminal records. The CROP legislation would allow these individuals to obtain a certificate that acknowledges the changes they have made in their lives and helps them have a fair chance at building a better future. CROP would help individuals with criminal records regain access to vocational licenses and would serve as an important source of information for employers and housing providers.


There will be a hearing for the bill, HB 2399, at 8:00 a.m. on January 31st, 2014, in the House Committee for Public Safety. Representative Brady Walkinshaw is the sponsor on the bill.

Institutions Project Welcomes New Team Members


Cynthia Wilson started with Columbia Legal Services in 2012 as an undergraduate intern for the Legal Financial Obligations Clinic before being hired as a Legal Assistant in October 2013.  



Sonja Demco is a legal assistant who comes to us from Foster Pepper.  Sonja brings a range of experience and interests including volunteering with a variety of nonprofits. 


Institutions Project Locations



101 Yesler Way, Suite 300

Seattle, WA 98104

(206) 464-5911

(800) 542-0794


Website: http://www.columbialegal.org/index.php