The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
14 Philadelphia ex-offenders graduated from The Center for Community Education at Eastern University with diplomas from a new 9-month paralegal program designed to help them find employment.
The graduates were: Bernadette Brandie, Faith C. Burrell, Ellen B. Crawford, Keith D. Ellis, Yvette K. Kamimura, Tammy J. Keitt, April L. Kelly, Mercedes A. Powers, Ronald E. Rivers, Phaedra Saunders, Irma C. Smith, Robert M. Smith, Kimberly Truitt, Tameka M. Upshaw.
The title of the news story is “14 ex-offenders become certified paralegals” which is misleading, because while they did earn diplomas for completion of a paralegal program, they did not receive one of the voluntary paralegal certifications offered by some states or national certification programs such as NALA or NFPA.
While the story itself is a feel-good tale of hard work and hope, with a city investing significant resources to give much-needed marketable skills to a difficult-to-employ population, I want to know how the story ends. Did the graduates find work in the legal industry or a related field, using the skills they gained in the paralegal program?
When I look at these graduates, I don’t see re-entry. Because these individuals never left our community. Do we really believe they were cut off from their families? Do we really believe they had no communications? They never left our community. And I don’t see ex-offenders because who among us has not violated a moral and or social law. What I see is individuals who have been sent to designated time out units — when you misbehave, you get sent to time-out, that’s what I see.
But what will Philadelphia employers see? And will they give these new graduates a chance to work in the community as paralegals?