Challenging the Consequences
of Mass Incarceration Clinic
Challenging the Consequences of Mass Incarceration Clinic is a clinic that focuses on litigation in federal court and resolution of claims related to prisoners’ conditions of confinement.
Students visit clients in state and federal prisons, where they interview, counsel, and develop strategies.Identification of cases is done collaboratively with the clients. Recent victories include a successful federal habeas trial that released a man who had been wrongfully incarcerated for 16 years and parole release for women who had experienced long histories of gender-related violence. Current projects include federal civil rights actions challenging solitary confinement in a maximum security facility, failure to protect a detainee from rampant gang violence on Rikers Island and failure to diagnose and treat a federal detainee for a chronic bone infection.
To prepare for this work, students read and discuss writings about punishment theory, the history of American prisons, and the substantive law governing prisoners’ rights. To develop the skills they need to work with clients, students participate in intensive simulated interview exercises. Other legal skills, including counseling, negotiation, oral argument, preparation of pleadings, briefs, and other litigation-related writing are taught and acquired in the context of client representation. Students are encouraged to raise, reflect on, and discuss relevant issues of professional responsibility that arise in work with confined, indigent clients.
Faculty Highlight: Professor Brett Dignam
Brett Dignam joined the Columbia Law School faculty in 2010. She came to Columbia from Yale Law School, where she led the Prison Legal Services, Complex Federal Litigation, and Supreme Court Advocacy clinics.
To read Dignam’s full biography and to find her contact information, visit the Faculty Contacts page.