Graduate launches project to assist offenders reenter society

Recent College of Law graduate Brooke Spivey has been named a 2020 Fellow with Equal Justice Works. 

The organization annually selects a class of public interest lawyers who have designed innovative projects in partnership with legal services organizations to address unmet legal needs and underserved communities. 

Spivey, one of 78 fellows selected from more than 430 applicants, will launch a federal civil reentry program to address legal obstacles of employment, housing, and restoration of voting rights for federal offenders on probation in the Eastern District of Tennessee. 

Tennessee has several reentry statutes that offer people with convictions a second chance, yet these processes are difficult to understand and navigate without legal guidance. 

Spivey, who is an East Tennessee native, said she has witnessed one of her own family members struggle returning to society after incarceration. That’s what makes this project especially meaningful for her.

“This program is a great opportunity to combine my personal and legal experiences to assist not only the reentry participants but ultimately the community as a whole,” Spivey said.

Through the reentry project, Spivey will work to develop an individualized plan for each client, by identifying the civil legal impediments and applying for relevant eligible relief. Additionally, she will be petitioning for Certificates of Employability, representing participants in housing hearings, and aiding in the restoration of their voting rights. 

Equal Justice Works has awarded more than 2,000 fellowships to lawyers throughout the last 30 years. Fellowships are granted to those committed to ensuring equal access to justice for underserved communities throughout the United States. 

Projects are funded through support of law firms, corporations, private foundations and individuals.