2013 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Jessica Emerson

Jessica Emerson

Name of Host Organization: The Women's Law Center of Maryland
City, State: Towson, Maryland
Issue area: Immigrant Populations - Trafficking/Slavery
Sponsors: David Stern Equal Justice Works Fellowship

The Project

Jessica used Maryland’s law that allows sex trafficking survivors to have their prostitution convictions vacated, helping them to ensure they will no longer be prevented from moving forward with their lives because of convictions stemming from acts they were forced to commit.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
Many victims of commercialized sex trafficking must endure both the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction and the stigma of involvement in prostitution. They remain extremely vulnerable to further exploitation and often continue to be involved in prostitution even after having escaped a trafficker. Jessica’s project addresses this injustice by providing direct representation to survivors in the Baltimore area seeking to vacate their prostitution convictions. She also trains attorneys to represent survivors in other parts of the state.
Fellowship Highlights: 
During her Fellowship, Jessica has:
• Worked directly with over 40 clients experiencing legal hardships stemming from a history of human trafficking or involvement in the commercial sex industry
• Collaborated with human trafficking advocates throughout the country to encourage other states to adopt legislative measures designed to reduce the collateral consequences of criminal convictions for survivors of trafficking
• Trained on vacating convictions at the national level
• Created and implemented a pro bono training program to recruit and train Maryland attorneys to represent survivors of trafficking in vacatur cases
Where are they now?: 
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Jessica has joined the University of Baltimore School of Law's Clinical Law program as a clinical teaching fellow, where she will begin a new project within the Civil Advocacy Clinic focused on reducing the collateral consequences of criminal convictions for survivors of human trafficking and those involved in the commercial sex industry.

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