South Royalton Legal Clinic
The Prison Projects
The South Royalton Legal Clinic has two initiatives serving the needs of incarcerated persons: the Families in Crisis Legal Aid Project and the Prisoner Child Support Project.
The Families in Crisis Legal Aid Project provides legal information and some representation to women inmates at Vermont's Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility to help them address pressing issues related to their separation from their children, such as attendance at juvenile proceedings, custody matters and guardianships. In some situations, represented in court cases was extended to inmates after their discharge from custody.
It's one thing for someone to go to prison to pay a debt to society. It's another thing for a prisoner who happens to be a parent of a child to come out of prison owing tens of thousands of dollars in child support-a debt that might have been lessened if only the prisoner knew of the right to seek modification of the support obligation by filing a few simple pages with the court. High arrearages—often in four or five figures—interfere with prisoners' reentry into society and their relationship with their children upon release. To help remedy their situation, the Prisoner Child Support Project, in collaboration with the Vermont Department of Corrections and Vermont Office of Child Support, has assisted prisoners in preparing and filing pro se child support modification papers. In 2012, the Vermont legislature amended two statutes to make it easier for prisoners to seek and obtain child support modification orders.
A Families in Crisis Legal Aid Project Case Story
When the prison doors closed behind her, Betty* lost far more than her personal freedom. Because of her situation, her three children were separated in homes among different relatives. A legal custody struggle ensued. Betty, incarcerated, was at a severe disadvantage. She was referred to the SRLC's Families in Crisis Legal Aid Project (FICLAP), which assists inmates at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in just such family and juvenile law problems. A clinic attorney and student assisted Betty in understanding the legal issues to be decided at an upcoming custody proceeding and facilitated her participation in the court hearing via phone. Clinic staff also explained to Betty, as well as a grandmother, how a guardianship through the probate court might be the best avenue for achieving the goal of custody with the grandmother and explained how the grandmother could seek guardianship.
*All client names used are pseudonyms