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This Article attempts to provide a framework for assessing the legacy and future of public interest advocacy in one particular area – corrections. It documents a shift from a test case to an implementation model of advocacy, and urges the development of effective remedial strategies as a method of linking litigation to a broader strategy of correctional advocacy.

I have chosen to focus on this particular institutional context for several reasons. On a pragmatic level, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, which for the last twenty years has been the primary source of funding for corrections litigation by private, nonprofit organizations, asked me to study the future of corrections litigation and the potential role of various organizations involved in corrections litigation to better inform the Foundation's decisions concerning its involvement in corrections litigation.

On a policy level, the area of corrections presents one of the most important policy issues facing our state and local governments. In many states it represents the single largest budget item, and the continued trend toward incarceration takes place at the expense of education, social services, and rebuilding the infrastructure of our cities. The dramatic overrepresentation of people of color in correctional institutions underscores the relationship of correctional policy to more basic social policies of the 1980s and the importance of corrections in developing an effective strategy for reversing the deterioration of urban communities.

On a more theoretical level, it is my view that the potential and role of litigation varies in different organizational settings, and that it is a mistake to ignore these organizational differences in assessing and planning the future role of litigation. The legal standards defining the scope of judicial reform activity are more favorable to successful litigation in some contexts than others. The availability of plaintiffs willing to sue and lawyers willing to represent them varies across subject areas. The demands of litigation and the concomitant expertise and resources needed to handle advocacy also differ among subject areas. The organizational dynamics contributing to the problems targeted by litigation and strategies for altering them may differ. Perhaps the most significant difference involves the political context surrounding the institutions subject to litigation and the potential for mobilizing other forms of effective advocacy. Too often, scholars and advocates ignore th6se differences and offer overarching generalizations about litigation's impact and potential. It is my hope that this study's focus on public interest advocacy in the corrections context will help identify themes and variations in public interest advocacy and contribute to the development of strategies of public interest advocacy that can build on common experience and yet respond to the particular demands of each institutional context.


Law | Law Enforcement and Corrections


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