Volunteer Lawyers for Justice Names Urban League of Essex County an Official Referral Partner for its Newark Reentry Legal Services

Top Quote VLJ's ReLeSe Assists Low-Income Essex County Residents with Criminal Records in Addressing Obstacles to Successful Community Reintegration. End Quote
  • Newark, NJ (1888PressRelease) March 24, 2011 - Volunteer Lawyers for Justice (VLJ) of Newark, N.J., a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation providing comprehensive pro bono legal services to economically-disadvantaged individuals in New Jersey, has named the Urban League of Essex County as an official referral partner for its Newark Reentry Legal Services (ReLeSe). VLJ's ReLeSe helps low-income Essex County residents with criminal records address the civil legal barriers that serve as obstacles to their successful community reintegration.

    Through direct in-house representation and referrals to volunteer attorneys, ReLeSe assists its clients with driver's license restoration, resolution of long out-standing municipal matters, modification of child support orders, and the expungement of criminal records. Karen Kielczewski, Esq., coordinating attorney for ReLeSe, provided the official referral partner training for the staff of the Urban League of Essex County.

    "Our partnership with VLJ's ReLeSe enables us to better serve the participants of the Urban League of Essex County," said Glenn Best, career services manager of the Newark, N.J.-based Urban League of Essex County. "Many of our participants don't have the time or wherewithal to find other organizations that offer supportive services, even if they are in a crisis situation. As an official referral partner of ReLeSe, we can readily connect individuals with the legal guidance they may still need."

    The Urban League of Essex County assists African Americans in the achievement of social and economic equality through its extensive range of programs and services. Those include an employment center with job search and job training services, housing and financial literacy programs, an all-day childcare facility, and an academic remediation center, among other services.

    "We are thrilled to have the Urban League of Essex County join our network of referral partners and look forward to working with Glenn and his staff," said Gina DeVito, Esq., managing attorney of VLJ's ReLeSe. "Finding meaningful employment is often the ultimate goal for an individual with a criminal record and one of the keys to successful community reintegration. By helping a client to restore his driver's license or file a petition to expunge a conviction for a non-violent offense that has remained on his record for years, we bring clients closer to achieving their goal and once again contributing to the community."

    VLJ Expanded ReLeSe in 2010 on Heels of State's Changes to Expungement Laws
    In March 2010, New Jersey legislation went into effect amending longstanding regulations regarding what can be expunged and the waiting period that must expire before a petition to expunge can be filed. The new law makes third- and fourth-degree drug offenses expungeable and, when in the public interest, reduces the waiting period for the expungement of certain offenses from 10 years to 5 years. ReLeSe volunteer attorneys work closely with clients on filing petitions for expungement, helping them to navigate this complex legal process.

    Established in 2001, VLJ has grown from a grass roots effort of 30 volunteer attorneys in Essex County to a state-wide not-for-profit with five staff attorneys and more than 1,500 volunteer attorneys aiding thousands of clients each year. In addition to ReLeSe, programs include free legal counsel and advice; educational seminars on various legal matters such as consumer law, bankruptcy, family law, and education; and direct representation for at-risk individuals facing critical civil legal issues.

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