It was a bittersweet summer for all of us here at EBCLC as we welcomed 46 summer interns into our offices, while also recognizing the passage of a full year since the loss of our beloved student Brian Lewinstein. Brian was a friend to everyone during the 2018 summer he spent interning with EBCLC’s Youth Defender Clinic, part of our Education, Defense and Justice for Youth (“EDJY”) Program. He advocated fiercely and compassionately for his young clients, and his commitment and optimism continue to inspire us to do better in our own advocacy. We will never stop honoring his memory, and our hearts are with his incredible family, today and every day.
Even in difficult times, Brian emanated joy and hopefulness. It is in that same spirit that I write today, to announce the inauguration of the Brian Lewinstein Youth Justice Fellowship. This recurring two-year Equal Justice America fellowship permanently places a Berkeley Law graduate at EBCLC, to work full-time combating racism in schools and courts and fighting to keep youth where they belong: in their classrooms, in their homes, and in their communities where they can thrive.
Ignoring everything we know about adolescent development and neuroscience, the criminal legal system draws an artificial line in the sand when our clients turn 18 , at which point they purportedly transform into full-fledged adults. As a result, our young clients (confronted by systems and institutions that criminalize them because of the color of their skin) often find themselves hurled headlong into the adult criminal legal system—a system that ignores their continuing need for guidance, education, and support.
That’s why we’re excited to announce that EDJY will utilize this fellowship to focus on achieving lasting, systemic change to improve outcomes for transition-age youth—youth between the ages of 18 and 24—who are ensnared in the criminal legal system. In addition to providing robust, holistic representation to youth of color targeted by the school-to-prison pipeline, the inaugural Brian Lewinstein Youth Justice Fellow will also fight for policy reforms to protect the rights of transition-age youth and raise up community-based solutions that meet their unique needs as they transition into adulthood.
Join me in welcoming Yasmine Tager as our first-ever Brian Lewinstein Youth Justice Fellow.
Yasmine’s commitment to honoring Brian’s legacy is best expressed in her own words:
“EDJY shaped my experience at Berkeley Law and I could not be more excited for the opportunity to be a part of the team for the next two years as an Equal Justice America Fellow. I am eager to share my passion and commitment with similarly motivated law students in the Clinical Program. EDJY gave me the opportunity to advocate wholeheartedly for youth caught at the intersection of the juvenile justice and education systems. I am grateful to Equal Justice America for the opportunity to pursue holistic advocacy and leverage direct representation experience to increase safeguards for transition-age youth.”
We are deeply grateful to Equal Justice America for granting us this special opportunity to advance the justice and equity that Brian set out to create in the world with this Fellowship.
-Rosa Bay, EBCLC Interim Clinical Director and EDJY Program Director