Elise Czuchna – Law Graduate

Elise Czuchna

Law Graduate

(518) 438-8046 ext. 1118

eczuchna@plsny.org

Elise joined PLS in August 2021 after receiving her J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law. As a law student, Elise participated in the Civil Rights Clinic as a student attorney on a §1983 jail misconduct case and had the opportunity to work on various criminal justice issues while interning with the Texas Civil Rights Project and the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. She also served as a judicial intern for the Honorable Lee Yeakel in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. Prior to law school, Elise received her B.A. from Cornell University. Her passion for prison reform work began during the several years she spent volunteering with the Phoenix Players Theatre Group (PPTG) at Auburn Correctional Facility. With PPTG, Elise helped to stage and even performed in the 2018 production The Strength of our Convictions: The Auburn Redemption. Elise continued her prison volunteer work at Lockhart Correctional Facility as an instructor with the Texas Prison Education Initiative. Elise has had a life-long love for The Lord of the Rings and spent a month in New Zealand visiting all of the LOTR movie filming locations. Elise also has an IMDb page.

Christina Alicea – Law Graduate

Christina Alicea

Law Graduate

(518) 438-8046 EXT. 1117

Christina joined PLS in August 2021, after graduating from the University at Buffalo School of Law. As a law student, she interned with PLS in Buffalo and helped to establish the PLS Education Matters Unit, which assists individuals in New York State prisons with their academic and vocational education and programming. During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Christina also interned with the Volunteer Lawyers’ Project, Erie County Family Court Help Desk, where she conducted intake and assisted indigent families plead their cases while court doors remained closed. Prior to attending law school, Christina attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY. There, she was one of six students selected to participate in the University of Houston Pre-Law Pipeline Program, which aims to increase the representation of underrepresented students in legal education. While in Houston, Christina witnessed the immigration crisis at our Southern border firsthand and volunteered with The Baker Ripley Organization to assist low-income permanent residents fill out applications for naturalization. As a Rosanna Rosado Fellow at John Jay, she was further provided with a scholarship which allowed her to take a break from her full-time serving position at the world’s largest Applebee’s in Times Square, NYC. She alternatively interned for Justice Sallie Manzanet-Daniels in the New York Appellate Division, First Department, and Justice Francois Rivera in Kings County Supreme Court. Christina’s experiences have solidified her dedication to assisting disenfranchised individuals and affirmed her passion for transforming the legal system into an equitable one.

Legal Secretary/Receptionist – Buffalo, NY

Legal Secretary/Receptionist - Buffalo, NY

Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York (PLS) is seeking applicants for the position of Legal Secretary in our Buffalo office.


PLS is a non-profit, statewide law office which provides civil legal services to people incarcerated in New York State prisons. PLS engages in civil rights advocacy and litigation including cases involving claims of unconstitutional conditions of confinement, prolonged placement in solitary confinement, deliberate indifference to serious mental health and medical needs, excessive use of force, access to education, and sentence computation issues. We have regional offices in Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Newburgh and Plattsburgh.  The legal secretary will provide administrative support including processing mail and intakes, answering phones, case management system data entry, file maintenance, correspondence, and assisting attorneys as needed. This position requires strong computer and case management system skills, and legal secretarial and organizational skills. Proficiency in Word and Excel required. This position also calls for flexibility, excellent interpersonal skills, and the ability to work well with all levels of internal management and staff, as well as outside clients, agencies and vendors.


Benefits

PLS offers a salary that is competitive with other public interest law firms in upstate New York, and sets salaries depending on experience. PLS offers a comprehensive benefits package including medical, dental, short and long term disability, life insurance, and a 401(k) retirement plan. All qualified applicants will be afforded equal employment opportunities without discrimination because of sex, race, color, age, national origin, religion, disability, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship, pregnancy or veteran status, or any other status protected by applicable law.


How To Apply

Please send a cover letter, resume, writing sample and at least three (3) references by email to: pkane@plsny.org. Due to the volume of applications expected, only people who are contacted for interviews will receive a response. The positions will remain open until filled.

LAWSUIT CHALLENGES FIVE POINTS DENIAL OF MOBILITY ACCOMMODATIONS TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

LAWSUIT CHALLENGES FIVE POINTS CORRECTIONAL FACILITY’S DENIAL OF WHEELCHAIRS, CANES, AND OTHER MOBILITY ACCOMMODATIONS TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

For Immediate Release
Media Contact:         Andrew Stecker, astecker@plsny.org, (716) 854-1007
                               Torie Atkinson, tatkinson@dralegal.org, (332) 217-0167

 

August 31, 202,1 Romulus, NY – Today the nonprofit organizations Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) and Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York (PLS) filed a class action lawsuit against the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) on behalf of people with disabilities who are incarcerated at Five Points Correctional Facility and have been denied mobility-related accommodations they need to get around. Read the complaint here.


Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that DOCCS routinely confiscates people’s mobility aids, like wheelchairs and canes, on arrival, even if they were issued by DOCCS at other facilities; refuses to replace or provide mobility aids when needed; provides broken and unusable shared wheelchairs that are difficult to access and not individualized to the needs of the person with a disability; and denies people assistants to help with cell cleaning and other tasks. Additionally, the plaintiffs assert that people who use wheelchairs and cannot push themselves have no reliable way to get around the facility because of DOCCS’ reliance on an ad-hoc process of calling other people who are incarcerated (known as “pushers”) to push them. The complaint charges that people who use wheelchairs are routinely left stranded while trying to get to and from facility services and programs like meals, medical visits, phone calls, recreation, and the law library. DOCCS’ administration of the pusher program is so inadequate, the lawsuit alleges, that people with disabilities who need pushers themselves are sometimes assigned to be pushers for others.


Plaintiffs Robert Cardew, Harrell Bonner, Philip Nelson, Melvin Johnson, and Khalik Jones have disabilities that require the use of wheelchairs and canes. Plaintiffs have experienced issues such as delays of a year or more to receive requested mobility aids, often only to receive items in disrepair and not individualized for their needs. The shared wheelchairs in Five Points are repeatedly vandalized, too big or too small, have loose wheels, ragged armrests, and missing foot rests. Mr. Bonner used a ripped T-shirt to tie the arm of his chair to its seat. Mr. Cardew was repeatedly told that if he could not push himself to meals, he could simply not eat. Mr. Nelson frequently has no access to a wheelchair, and as a result falls five or six times a month and once broke his nose from a fall. Despite his requests for consistent access to a wheelchair and a pusher, Mr. Nelson was himself assigned to be a pusher. When called to push someone else, he would use the wheelchair’s handles as a walker to support himself. Because no one can be found to assist him, Mr. Johnson is regularly forced to push himself to and from places, even though it is dangerous and painful for him. Mr. Jones requires a cane, but has twice had his cane (provided by other DOCCS facilities) confiscated upon arriving at Five Points. As a result, he has fallen multiple times, including once down stairs.

 

Plaintiffs maintain that DOCCS’ significant failures to provide these necessary mobility aids and services amount to unlawful discrimination against not just Plaintiffs, but a class of people with mobility-related disabilities who have been unable to safely and meaningfully navigate the facility and the programs and services it offers, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

“It has been a constant struggle with DOCCS to get a wheelchair that isn’t falling apart and someone to push it,” said plaintiff Robert Cardew. “When I have to push myself, I can’t breathe and my chest hurts. I shouldn’t be hurting myself like this just to get to and from meals and programs, or spending hours a day waiting for someone to help me. Things need to change not just for me but for all of the other guys in here who can’t get around.”

“I have been waiting more than 11 years for a working wheelchair that I am not tying together with string and ripped T-shirts,” said plaintiff Harrell Bonner. “I can’t get to meals, to the yard, or even the bathroom because I can’t get a pusher. The situation is dehumanizing and stressful. Five Points needs to do right by all of us who use wheelchairs and canes.”

 

“DOCCS has failed to ensure that people with mobility disabilities have access to the accommodations they need and are entitled to under the law,” said Torie Atkinson, Staff Attorney at Disability Rights Advocates. “It is time for DOCCS to abolish this discriminatory patchwork system and provide people with disabilities working wheelchairs, canes, cell assistants, and a functional way to get around the facility.”

 

“The lack of appropriate accommodations for our clients with disabilities has left them vulnerable to abuse, unable to access essential services and, in some cases, with worsened medical conditions,” said Megan Welch, Staff Attorney at Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York.


“The road to protecting the rights of people with disabilities in prison has been a long one and PLS has played an integral role in that fight,” said Karen Murtagh, Executive Director of PLS. In 2002, PLS and other advocates filed a lawsuit on behalf of people with mental illness in prison. That complaint, like the one filed today, alleged that the State was in violation of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act, by disciplining people rather than addressing their serious mental health needs. “In 2006, the State settled that case, agreeing, among other things, not to place people with serious mental illness in solitary confinement. Today, PLS is once again championing the rights of people with disabilities in prison, and I have no doubt we will, once again, prevail,” said Murtagh.


The plaintiffs and class members seek a declaration that these practices are illegal and an injunction to require DOCCS to change its policies and practices so that people with mobility disabilities at Five Points have the accommodations they need to get around the facility and access all of the programs, services, and activities that non-disabled people there can access. The plaintiffs also seek compensatory damages for the pain and suffering they have experienced as a result of this treatment.

 

About Disability Rights Advocates
Founded in 1993, Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) is the leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people with the full spectrum of disabilities in complex, system-change, class action cases. DRA is proud to have upheld the promise of the ADA since our inception. Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically improved access to health care, employment, transportation, education, disaster preparedness planning, voting and housing. For more information, visit http://www.dralegal.org.

 

About Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York
Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York (PLS) is a non-profit legal services organization founded in 1976 to provide indigent incarcerated New Yorkers access to the courts. There are over 32,000 individuals incarcerated in 51 prisons across New York State, and PLS responds to more than 10,000 requests for assistance annually. Our mission is to provide high quality, effective legal representation and assistance to indigent prisoners, to help them to secure their civil and human rights, and to advocate for humane prisons and for a more humane criminal justice system.

Staff Attorney Position – Albany, New York

Staff Attorney Position – Albany, New York

Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York (PLS) is searching for a staff attorney for our Albany office. PLS is a statewide program providing civil legal services to people incarcerated in New York State prisons. PLS engages in civil rights advocacy and litigation primarily in cases involving claims of unconstitutional conditions of confinement, prolonged placement in solitary confinement, deliberate indifference to serious mental health and medical needs, excessive use of force, treatment of juveniles and veterans, access to education, and sentence computation issues. PLS also offers limited family law assistance with child support and visitation issues unique to individuals incarcerated in New York State.

 

PLS is seeking to hire an attorney who is committed to providing legal services to the disadvantaged. This is an entry level position. Applicants must be admitted to practice in New York State with up to three years’ experience, or have recently taken the N.Y. State Bar exam. The ideal applicant will have experience in at least one of the following areas: prisoners’ rights, New York State family law, civil legal services, civil rights, poverty law or federal litigation. Applicants should be self-motivated and capable of complex analytical work. Applicants must possess excellent legal research and writing skills, strong communications skills, and a desire to work in a collaborative work environment. We have a need for attorneys who are fluent in Spanish.

 

PLS offers a salary that is competitive with other public interest law firms in upstate New York, and sets salaries depending on experience. PLS offers a comprehensive benefits package including medical, dental, short and long-term disability, life insurance, and a 401(k) retirement plan. All qualified applicants will be afforded equal employment opportunities without discrimination because of sex, race, color, age, national origin, religion, disability, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship, pregnancy or veteran status, or any other status protected by applicable law.

 

Please send a cover letter, resume, writing sample and at least three (3) references by email to: pkane@plsny.org. Due to the volume of applications expected, only people who are contacted for interviews will receive a response. The position will remain open until filled.

Assistant Controller – Albany, New York

Assistant Controller – Albany, New York

Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York (PLS) is searching for a full-time Assistant Controller to work in our Albany Office. The Assistant Controller will work directly with the PLS Controller who is responsible for the fiscal operation of PLS. The Assistant Controller should have a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, although an MBA is preferred, and 3 to 5 years of accounting or financial experience, preferably in a legal or not for profit environment. A certification as a public accountant (CPA) is desirable. The Assistant Controller must have computer software knowledge and skills, preferably using Excel, Quickbooks, Microsoft Word and Windows XP.

 

The Assistant Controller should have a strong working knowledge of general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, cash flow management, income tax and banking and be familiar with contract and grant processing and reporting. The Assistant Controller’s job responsibilities include: preparing financial statements; producing and managing balance sheets; assisting with management of accounting, auditing and budgeting within the organization; assisting with preparations for audits; working to reconcile accounting inaccuracies or imbalances, ensuring compliance with, and preparation of reports according to, applicable government regulations; using accounting software to maintain records and prepare reports; coordinating with and preparing reports for the Controller and upper management and contributing to team efforts by accomplishing related tasks as needed.

 

Applicants must have exceptionally strong analytical and problem-solving skills, be highly skilled in math, accounting and financial processes and have excellent communication and interpersonal skills. The ideal candidate will be detail oriented and highly organized, skilled in time management and the ability to prioritize tasks, possess excellent critical thinking skills and have a solid understanding of GAAP and applicable regulations.

 

PLS offers a competitive salary depending on experience. PLS also offers a comprehensive benefits package including medical, dental, short- and long-term disability, life insurance, and a 401(k) Retirement Plan. All qualified applicants will be afforded equal employment opportunities without discrimination because of sex, race, color, age, national origin, religion, disability, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship, pregnancy or veteran status, or any other status protected by applicable law.

 

Please send a cover letter, resume, writing sample and at least three (3) references by email to: pkane@plsny.org. Due to the volume of applications expected, only people who are contacted for interviews will receive a response. The positions will remain open until filled.

Surviving the Pandemic: Tell us your story!

Surviving the Pandemic: Tell us your story!

National Pro Bono Week is a time to celebrate and recognize the work of our dedicated pro bono volunteers as well as to educate the community about the many issues faced by PLS’s clients. This year, in addition to recognizing our volunteer attorneys with Pro Bono awards, the virtual event will shine a light on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on incarcerated individuals and their families.

We are seeking submissions, from those in custody and from their loved ones, about how the pandemic impacted them.  Submissions can include COVID-19 related stories, letters, poems, artwork, or even scenes with characters and dialogue. What was it like to be incarcerated or have a family member incarcerated during the worst part of the COVID pandemic? Were you able to communicate with your loved ones? If not, how did you cope during the periods when you were unable to see or speak with them? Did you or someone close to you become infected with the virus? If so, what was that experience like? Did you lose a close friend or relative to COVID-19? What was it like to see your loved ones in person again after being separated for so long?

If you would like to share your story of coping with the anxieties and uncertainties of being incarcerated or having a loved one behind bars during the peak of the pandemic, please send us your submission.  


Because our event this year will be virtual, we are particularly interested in receiving artwork. We will use the artwork to create a collage depicting the impact of the virus from an artistic standpoint. So, if you have been waiting to share your artistic talent – now’s the time!


If you speak/write in a language other than English, please feel free to send us a submission in your primary language, that is, the language in which you are most comfortable expressing yourself.

We will compile selected submissions, and the finished product will be presented by professional actors during a live virtual performance at our November 2021 pro bono celebration. We will also display artwork selected from the submissions throughout the event.


Poems should be no more than one (1) page. Stories or short plays should be no more than five (5) pages in length and mailed, with the letter below to: Pro Bono Director, Prisoners’ Legal Services of NY, 41 State Street, Suite M112, Albany, New York 12207, no later than August 22, 2021 or email your submission to: pkane@plsny.org


By sharing your first-hand accounts, we hope to educate the public about the issues faced by incarcerated individuals and their families and friends, and to recruit attorneys to take cases pro bono, thus increasing access to justice for indigent incarcerated persons across the State. While we cannot guarantee that each piece will be read or displayed, we encourage all submissions and will do our best to integrate as many as possible into the event.

PLS reserves the right to make editorial changes to submissions.


IMPORTANT


When you send us your submission, please include the following cover letter, which must be DATED and SIGNED by you, with your submission.  You may simply send us this page, dated and signed below, as your cover letter, along with your submission:

DATE: __________________

 

Dear Pro Bono Partnership,

Enclosed is my submission for the 2021 PLS Pro Bono Event. I authorize PLS to use my submission and my name at the event and in the event materials. I also authorize PLS to post my submission on its website and any other PLS social media platform such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. and include it in Pro Se. I also authorize the use of my submission and my name in PLS informational and promotional materials.

Sincerely,

 

_______________________________________

     (Please sign your name here)

Reentry Social Worker – Newburgh, New York and New York City

Reentry Social Worker – Newburgh, New York and New York City

Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York (PLS) is searching for a Reentry Social Worker for our Pre-Release & Re-Entry Program (PREP) located in our Newburgh and New York City, New York regional offices. PLS is a statewide program providing civil legal services to people incarcerated in New York State prisons and helping them to prepare for successful reintegration into their communities upon release. The Re-Entry Social Worker will split their time between the Newburgh and New York City Office. Applicants must have a demonstrated commitment to providing services to the disadvantaged.

 

PLS’ PREP works with selected clients returning to the Bronx or Manhattan on their maximum release date to create a holistic reentry plan with the goal of ensuring successful reentry for individuals returning to their communities. The PREP Reentry Social Worker selects clients within six months to one year before their maximum release date and works with them to prepare them for reentry and reintegration into their communities. The client and the Reentry Social Worker create a plan to address the needs of the returning client. The Reentry Social Worker meets with clients periodically after their release to assist with their initial re-entry, modify the reentry plan as needed, celebrate client successes and follow their progress.

 

The position of Reentry Social Worker requires an MSW. Applicants must have exceptionally strong interviewing and interpersonal skills and the ability to assess the needs of each client. The ideal candidate will have: the skillset to determine what type of program will best advance the client’s goals; knowledge of the types of programs available that meet each client’s needs within the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and in the community; experience creating long term relationships with community programs that the clients will be using, a working knowledge. or ability to develop a working knowledge. of the community the client is returning to; experience working with clients who have mental health diagnoses; familiarity with the needs of LGBTQAI clients; an understanding of physical and intellectual disabilities; a trauma-informed practice; and the ability to relate to each client on that client’s level. Mitigation experience and fluency in Spanish is desirable.

 

PLS offers a competitive salary and sets salaries depending on experience. PLS offers a comprehensive benefits package including medical, dental, short- and long-term disability, life insurance, and a 401(k) Retirement Plan. All qualified applicants will be afforded equal employment opportunities without discrimination because of sex, race, color, age, national origin, religion, disability, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship, pregnancy or veteran status, or any other status protected by applicable law.

 

Please send a cover letter, resume, writing sample and at least three (3) references by email to: pkane@plsny.org. Due to the volume of applications expected, only people who are contacted for interviews will receive a response. The positions will remain open until filled.

​​Immigration Staff Attorney Positions – Buffalo, New York

​​Immigration Staff Attorney Positions – Buffalo, New York

Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York (PLS) is seeking the immediate hire of immigration attorneys in its Buffalo office. Attorneys will provide free legal representation to individuals incarcerated in New York State prisoners in removal proceedings in the Institutional Hearing Program (IHP), and to individuals in immigration detention at the Albany and Clinton County Jails, whose cases are calendared at the Batavia Immigration Court in Batavia, NY. 


Overview
PLS is a non-profit legal services organization providing civil legal services to indigent individuals in New York State correctional facilities in cases where no other counsel is available. Founded in 1976 in response to the Attica uprising, PLS has regional offices in Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca and Plattsburgh.

As part of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), PLS provides free legal representation to non-citizens incarcerated in New York State prison facing immigration removal proceedings under the Institutional Hearing Program (IHP) and individuals in immigration detention at the Albany and Clinton County Jails. These proceedings take place at the Bedford Hills, Downstate, and Ulster Immigration Courts, located inside New York State correctional facilities in upstate New York and at the Batavia Immigration Court in Batavia, NY. 

 Job Description

The ideal candidate would have strong research, writing, and oral advocacy skills; the ability to work in a collaborative and dynamic team environment; excellent organizational skills; and a commitment to serving indigent clients convicted of crimes. Clinical or professional background in immigration and / or criminal law is preferred. 

Languages

Fluency in Spanish is preferred.  Please note all language skills and level of proficiency in your application.

Salary and Benefits & EEO Policy

Salary is commensurate with experience. PLS offers a comprehensive benefits package including medical, dental, short and long-term disability, life insurance, and a 401(k) retirement plan. All qualified applicants will be afforded equal employment opportunities without discrimination because of sex, race, color, age, national origin, religion, disability, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship, pregnancy or veteran status, or any other status protected by applicable law.

Deadline to Appl
y
Applications will be reviewed on an on-going basis.


How to Apply
Please submit your cover letter, resume, writing sample, and at least three (3) references by mail or email to: Patricia Kane, Prisoners’ Legal Services of NY, 41 State St., Suite M112, Albany, NY  12207 or to pkane@plsny.org. Include “PLS Immigration Attorney” in the subject line along with your preference for office location. No phone calls please.


Immigration Staff Attorney Positions – Albany, New York

Immigration Staff Attorney Positions – Albany, New York

Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York (PLS) is seeking the immediate hire of immigration attorneys in its Albany office. Attorneys will provide free legal representation to individuals incarcerated in New York State prisoners in removal proceedings in the Institutional Hearing Program (IHP), and to individuals in immigration detention at the Albany and Clinton County Jails, whose cases are calendared at the Batavia Immigration Court in Batavia, NY. 



Overview
PLS is a non-profit legal services organization providing civil legal services to indigent individuals in New York State correctional facilities in cases where no other counsel is available. Founded in 1976 in response to the Attica uprising, PLS has regional offices in Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca and Plattsburgh.

As part of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), PLS provides free legal representation to non-citizens incarcerated in New York State prison facing immigration removal proceedings under the Institutional Hearing Program (IHP) and individuals in immigration detention at the Albany and Clinton County Jails. These proceedings take place at the Bedford Hills, Downstate, and Ulster Immigration Courts, located inside New York State correctional facilities in upstate New York and at the Batavia Immigration Court in Batavia, NY. 

Job Description
The ideal candidate would have strong research, writing, and oral advocacy skills; the ability to work in a collaborative and dynamic team environment; excellent organizational skills; and a commitment to serving indigent clients convicted of crimes. Clinical or professional background in immigration and / or criminal law is preferred. 

Languages
Fluency in Spanish is preferred.  Please note all language skills and level of proficiency in your application.

Salary and Benefits & EEO Policy
Salary is commensurate with experience. PLS offers a comprehensive benefits package including medical, dental, short and long-term disability, life insurance, and a 401(k) retirement plan. All qualified applicants will be afforded equal employment opportunities without discrimination because of sex, race, color, age, national origin, religion, disability, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship, pregnancy or veteran status, or any other status protected by applicable law.

Deadline to Apply
Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis until the positions are filled. 

How to Apply
Please submit your cover letter, resume, writing sample, and at least three (3) references by mail or email to: Patricia Kane, Prisoners’ Legal Services of NY, 41 State St., Suite M112, Albany, NY  12207 or to pkane@plsny.org. Include “PLS Immigration Attorney” in the subject line along with your preference for office location. No phone calls please.