Root & Rebound's mission is to transfer power and information from the policy and legal communities to the people most impacted by our criminal justice system through public education, direct legal services, and policy advocacy, so that the law serves, rather than harms, low-income communities and communities of color in the United States.
We envision a world where people impacted by mass criminalization have full restoration of their rights, so that they can move forward with hope, dignity, and opportunity.
When we started Root & Rebound, we set out to understand how a group of lawyers could effectively reduce the devastating impacts of collateral consequences, and help clients navigate a complicated system that they were not at all prepared for during incarceration. In our first year, we served over 100 clients through a traditional direct service model. When people in reentry had issues, we worked with them intensively to find solutions. We learned about parole and probation conditions, family law and child support, housing and employment issues, and reducing court ordered debt, among many others.
We soon saw that there were thousands of barriers across all areas of life--and that information on the law, where to get relief, and how to navigate government agencies and systems was buried and impossible to find.
If we, as attorneys, found it difficult to answer these questions and help our clients navigate obstacles in reentry, how could we expect our clients to do so--or the social workers, family and friends, and advocates who worked with them? Our clients were fully capable and hungry to advocate for themselves and overcome obstacles, but needed the legal and practical information on how to do so.
At the same time, we felt extremely limited by a 1:1 direct service model. With 50,000 people released from prison and jail in California each year, and hundreds of thousands more preparing for parole board hearings and release, we needed to create a broad solution--a resource that could serve the needs of hundreds of thousands of people grappling with these issues across the state who would never be able to make it to our office for support.
In 2014, we began working on the solution. After 14 months of research and writing by a team of 4 staff, 10 interns, and countless volunteers, we published the "Roadmap to Reentry: A California Legal Guide," in May 2015. Available in print and online, the guide is an easy-to-use navigation tool covering the major barriers in reentry intended for a broad audience: people preparing for reentry as well as their families, social workers and case managers, teachers, community supervision officers, and attorneys. It is comprehensive in scope, covering nine areas of law and civic life: housing, public benefits, parole & probation, education, understanding & cleaning up your criminal record, ID & voting, family & children, court-ordered debt, and employment.
Today, all of our programs are based upon the one simple principle that inspired us to create the guide: what the reentry space needs from attorneys is the innovation and drive to create more tools, resources, coordination, and readiness support that take the guess work out of reentry and give people the resources to find their own way. Today, these tools include legal and community education, direct services and technical assistance, and high-impact policy advocacy.