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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cory Booker Launches "ReLeSe" Pro-Bono Legal Help For Ex-Offenders

Mayor Cory Booker:

A strong focus of my administration has been creating successful prisoner re-entry programs to empower men and women returning from prison to find jobs, reconnect/raise their families and contribute to their communities.

To help eliminate barriers to employment for men and women returning home from prison, we launched ReLeSe, the Nation’s first-ever pro bono legal services firm for ex-offenders.

What is ReLeSe?

ReLeSe, a Legal Services program of the Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, is designed to help individuals with criminal records address civil legal matters that are barriers to successful community reintegration.

Organized through a collaboration among Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s Office, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, and other organizations, and with the support of community based organizations, local law firms, IOLTA and the New Jersey State Bar Foundation, ReLeSe matches clients with volunteer attorneys to handle issues most commonly encountered by recently incarcerated individuals but not handled by existing legal services programs.

Referrals to the program are made by community referral partner organizations that work with the re-entry population, as well as by Newark City Hall. All assistance is provided free of charge.

Who is eligible for ReLeSe?

Any low-income Newark (or Essex County) resident who has been incarcerated in jail or prison, or otherwise has a criminal record, is eligible for ReLeSe assistance.

Individuals can qualify regardless of how much time has passed since their release. ReLeSe attorneys have been trained to handle the following legal issues:

Suspended driver’s license (including court fines
and surcharges)

Municipal court issues

Child support issues

Identity fraud


Clients facing other legal issues (e.g. bankruptcy, divorce, landlord/tenant disputes) are referred to a local legal services organization or to a ReLeSe volunteer who may be an expert in that area of law.

ReLeSe DOES NOT handle Criminal matters.

Because all services are provided by Volunteers, ReLeSe cannot guarantee that all applicants will receive services, but every effort will be made to assist eligible applicants.


ReLeSe regularly provides training in all of the above-mentioned areas of law. Mentors are available to assist with all matters. Malpractice coverage, model forms and pleadings, and exemptions from mandatory pro bono are some of the benefits provided to volunteers of ReLeSe.

How to apply for assistance from ReLeSe:

ReLeSe does not accept self-referrals.

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Sources: ReLeSe, Facebook, Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, Youtube, Google Maps

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