Prisoners have a wide range of civil legal issues, such as family, probate, consumer, and other civil legal matters, many of which arise from the circumstances of their incarceration. These problems have an impact not only on the prisoners, but on the lives of their children, spouses, partners, and others who did not commit a crime.
The Prisoner Assistance Clinic places an emphasis on interviewing, counseling, and providing “unbundled” legal services to prisoners. Student attorneys provide the information, advice, and forms the inmates need to represent themselves in civil proceedings. For some matters in Southern Maine courts, the Clinic provides full representation when a prisoner is not able to advocate for himself or herself. The program is popular with students, prisoners, and corrections staff alike.
Clinic students go to the Maine Correctional Center in Windham every week to meet with prisoners. While most of the cases involve family issues such as parental rights, child support, and probate-related proceedings such as guardianship or estates, students also assist prisoners with a wide range of legal matters. These have included tort defense, wage claims, landlord tenant or real estate issues, even tax questions. The students have also helped disabled prisoners get Social Security to ensure they receive medical treatment and a small income when they are released.