The Second Look Project

The Second Look Project, created by Professor Steve Zeidman with support from the Defenders Clinic,  is dedicated to supporting incarcerated individuals in their clemency and parole petitions. To date, we have worked with more than 60 people, and secured freedom for 22. Having received 1,800+ requests, the work we plan to do for so many incredible reformed New Yorkers is only just beginning.

How do we repair the damage done from mass incarceration? Our criminal justice system is set up to deny people the right to learn from their mistakes – choosing aggressive punishment over redemption and rehabilitation and sentencing many to die in prison. There are people who have achieved rehabilitation, have dedicated their lives to improving themselves and their communities and still, they remain behind bars.

We’re here to change that.

Our team of clinic faculty and students work with myriad partners from other CUNY schools to WITNESS to local Public Defenders offices to support clients in their bids for freedom.

Clemency Cases

The clinic joined the Clemency Project 2014, an unprecedented, national consortium of criminal justice organizations working to identify and represent federal prisoners serving lengthy sentences who are eligible for clemency by the President of the United States. The Clemency Project spurred initially by the Attorney General, is a response to the policies of mass incarceration that have led to more than two million people in America’s jails and prisons. Students represent incarcerated persons serving life sentences, in their bids for clemency at the federal and state levels.

Challenging Solitary Confinement

The clinic had a breakthrough representing a client contesting his solitary confinement as a petition for certiorari was granted by the New York Court of Appeals. This case presents an issue that potentially arises in every prison disciplinary hearing: whether and when a pro se prisoner will have access to judicial review based on having sufficiently preserved a legal challenge. In addition, student defenders are drafting an amicus brief on another prisoners’ rights case pending before the Court. This case involves the relief provided when a prisoner’s placement in solitary confinement was based on a constitutionally deficient administrative process.

Disciplinary Hearings for the Incarcerated

In partnership with Prisoner’s Legal Services, student defenders represent NY State inmates who have received disciplinary violations and are serving lengthy sentences in solitary confinement.

Misdemeanor Representation

Clinic interns represent indigent clients through the Clinic’s contract with the Legal Aid Society and pursuant to the Judiciary’s Student Practice Order. Clinic interns meet their clients approximately 24 hours after their arrest, argue to the court for their client’s release, and continue their representation until the charges are resolved.