Every semester, Clinical Law Students at the UNM School of Law provide limited representation to inmates at the New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility in nearby Grants.
Students interview incarcerated women on site and give brief advice on a variety of legal questions, including sensitive issues such as how to approach family reunification. As many as 70 inmates attend each semester: some receive on-site advice; the majority, however, receive follow-up letters from students who do research and provide self-help materials.
"Students gain valuable experience conducting interviews at the women’s prison in Grants," says Professor Camille Carey. "Students from each Clinic section are exposed to the harsh realities of incarceration for so many of these women. For example, many inmates permanently lose all parental rights to their children, including custodial and visitation rights and the right to know where or with whom their children are living."
Sage Morris Green, the student coordinator for this project, says the project is an enriching addition to the overall clinical law program. "Students gain unique experience in determining a legal problem from the complex web of both legal and non-legal issues which inmates often present," she says. "And several inmates said that they have found the clinic’s visits so helpful that they go every year and encourage other inmates to attend."
Prior to visiting the prison, students receive training consistent with their section’s particular emphasis. Business and Tax, for example, covers common tax and contract issues; Community Lawyering focuses on topics such as custody options for non-parent caregivers.