2013 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Sarah Staudt

Sarah Staudt

Name of Host Organization: Lawndale Christian Legal Center
City, State: Chicago, Illinois
Issue area: Criminal Law
Sponsors: Discover, Inc.; Mayer Brown LLP

The Project

Sarah is providing individualized, holistic legal advocacy to juveniles in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago and creating the first resource center for Chicago pro bono attorneys who wish to practice in juvenile court.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
North Lawndale is a neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago where more than 1,500 youths are arrested annually. The majority of youth in all of Illinois who are incarcerated for drug offenses come from North Lawndale. Additionally, more than 70 percent of North Lawndale’s youth live in poverty, and fewer than 40 percent graduate high school. These juveniles need more than legal representation. They need comprehensive services beyond the courtroom, including mentoring, job training, and social work sensitive to their developmental needs. Lawndale Christian Legal Center provides holistic representation, integrating legal and social services to walk with juveniles every step of the way as they move through, and ultimately away from, the criminal justice system.
Highlights to Date: 
In the first year, Sarah has:
• Represented more than 20 youth under the age of 18 in criminal cases in juvenile and adult court
• Won two motions to quash arrest for teenagers unlawfully stopped by police, leading to the dismissal of their cases
• Worked holistically with Lawndale Christian Legal Center’s team of social workers to ensure that youth clients are embraced by their communities, restored from trauma, and empowered to move beyond their involvement in the criminal justice system
What's Next: 
In the next year, Sarah plans to:
• Provide monthly trainings to community leaders on the juvenile court system and how they can advocate for youth
• Continue to zealously fight cases of juveniles who have been charged with crimes after being unlawfully stopped by police, unlawfully identified by suggestive identification procedures, or who have been coerced into making false confessions
• Provide monthly know-your-rights presentations to area youth so that they can better advocate for themselves and protect their rights while in custody
• Expand work with social service providers to ensure that youth have access to mental health services, special education services, drug counseling, and mentoring

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