As part of our racial justice commitments, Clorox funded three legal fellows to work on solutions for issues that disproportionately impact Black communities. Read how one of them, Bailey Strelow, is addressing the legal barriers faced by people re-entering their communities from prison or jail.
It’s a story we’ve heard before.
A young man who lacked parental support growing up was convicted of a crime as a juvenile. With little support navigating the legal system, he served his time only to re-enter a society determined not to welcome him back.
But that’s where this man’s story takes a different path. Thanks to Bailey Strelow, an Equal Justice Works fellow at Root & Rebound, this young man got legal coaching on how to navigate the system and clean his record so he could begin to move forward with his life. For the first time, he also had someone who listened to, believed in and supported him.
This young, Black man was lucky. Today, one in three people in the U.S. has a criminal record. African Americans — and Black men in particular — suffer the greatest consequences of having a criminal record. Despite somewhat lofty ideals and promises of rehabilitation, people with criminal records face a host of obstacles to re-enter society, even after they have completed their sentence or parole. These include barriers to landing a steady job and securing housing, accessing the social safety net and federal student aid, and exercising the right to vote.
As an English major at U.C. Berkeley, Bailey was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and conversations going on in the Berkeley community. Experiencing the impacts of incarceration in their own family, Bailey was compelled to do something more meaningful around criminal justice and saw what impactful litigation could do for the millions of people facing legal barriers as they re-enter their communities.
Today, Bailey’s work at Root & Rebound, a legal-based non-profit, aims to restore power and resources to the families and communities most harmed by mass incarceration through legal advocacy, public education, policy reform and litigation.
“My clients talk about being different people from when they were convicted, yet their criminal record can hold them back,” shared Bailey. “Despite having served their time, they’re unable to rebuild their lives as they re-enter society.” The system to remedy these barriers is complex and costly, making access to expertise like Bailey’s all that more valuable.
For example, California recently shortened probation terms for people convicted of certain crimes, but it won’t retroactively update terms for those who were convicted in the past. While some counties are applying the new law retroactively, others are not. Bailey is working with several clients in this situation and to get counties to treat all probation terms equally.
Bailey is also focused on addressing systemic racism in housing for those with prior convictions. While some laws have been passed to address the issue, local ordinances often paint these citizens as a liability, and they’re unfairly evicted or outright rejected from housing. They can’t even join family members in their own homes if they are renting in cities with these kinds of ordinances. Imagine trying to restart your life and being unable to get a place to live.
Clorox is honored to support Bailey’s work along with two other racial justice legal fellows.