LAC’s Criminal Justice Project reduces incarceration and promotes successful reentry through legal services and litigation, policy advocacy, technical assistance, and education.

Legal Services & Litigation

Legal Action Center provides free legal services to people living in New York who have had interactions with the criminal justice system.  LAC helps people overcome discrimination, get fair treatment in the workplace, and more. LAC also brings lawsuits to create broader change that can benefit many people.

LAC’s free legal services for people who have a criminal record and live in New York focus on these issues:

  • Getting and correcting your New York State RAP sheet
  • Certificates of Relief from Disabilities or Good Conduct
  • Correcting mistakes on a background check for a job or housing
  • Denials of jobs and occupational licenses because of your criminal record
  • Denials of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and other publicly funded housing because of your criminal record
  • Discrimination in voting, higher education, guardianship
  • Collecting evidence of rehabilitation

The Legal Action Center’s services range from brief advice to informal advocacy and full representation.  LAC files complaints with City, State and Federal agencies that enforce anti-discrimination laws. LAC also brings lawsuits to create broader change that can benefit others.

LAC DOES NOT WORK ON: criminal defense or appeals, sex offense risk level reduction, parole/probation issues, police misconduct, prison conditions, legal malpractice.

If you live in New York State and need help with one of the issues described above, you may speak with LAC’s legal staff.  Please call (212) 243-1313.  LAC is sorry that, due to limited funding, we only accept these calls on Tuesdays and Thursdays during certain hours. Please call for the exact hours because we change them from time to time.

LAC has additional funding to help New Yorkers with HIV/AIDS and has extended call hours for people with HIV or AIDS. If you have HIV/AIDS and need help with your criminal record, you may call LAC on Monday through Friday during regular business hours.

Initial intake is by phone only.  LAC will not respond to requests by e-mail and cannot serve “walk-in” clients.

For answers to common questions about how to get a job or housing in spite of a criminal record, please read the FAQs.

Looking for publications and training materials on these topics?  You can find them by visiting Resources.

Active Cases

1. Jones v. Sterling Infosytems, Inc. is a class action lawsuit against Sterling Infosystems, Inc. (“Sterling”), one of the nation’s largest background screening companies.  The suit charges Sterling with systemic violations of federal and state laws governing the background screening process.  The lead plaintiff is Kevin A. Jones, a Manhattan resident who was offered a job as doorman/porter by Sterling’s client, Halstead Management Company, LLC (“Halstead”).  Kevin A. Jones has no criminal conviction history, but a background check performed by Sterling mixed him up with a Kevin M. Jones, who had several criminal convictions according to a Sterling background report.  Halstead revoked Mr. Jones’ offer after receiving the Sterling report.  On May 1, 2014, LAC and its co-counsel, Francis & Mailman P.C., filed a class action complaint against Sterling in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.  READ MORE

2. Jones v. Halstead  is a class action lawsuit against Halstead Management Company, LLC (Halstead), Brown Harris Stevens LLC Group, Brown Harris Stevens, LLC, and Terra Holdings, LLC (collectively, the Halstead Defendants). The lead plaintiff is Kevin A. Jones, a Manhattan resident who was offered a job as doorman/porter by Halstead – a large New York based real estate company. Kevin A. Jones has no criminal conviction history, but a background check performed by Sterling Infosystems, Inc. (Sterling) mixed him up with a Kevin M. Jones, who has several criminal convictions according to a Sterling background report. Halstead revoked Mr. Jones’ offer after receiving the Sterling report. On May 2, 2014, LAC and its co-counsel, Francis & Mailman P.C., filed a class action complaint against Halstead and the Brown Harris Stevens entities in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.  READ MORE

3. Wilson v. CoreLogic is a class action lawsuit charging a large background screening company, CoreLogic SafeRent, LLC (CoreLogic), with producing inaccurate reports that include expunged, sealed and dismissed cases.  The lead plaintiff, Abdullah Wilson, was denied housing in the Bronx in 2012 after CoreLogic’s background report included a 1995 felony conviction that had been vacated and sealed.  READ MORE

4. Wirt v. Altegrity, Inc. & HireRight, Inc. is a class action lawsuit that charges both corporations (the Defendants) with producing inaccurate retail theft reports in violation of background screening laws.  Retail theft reports are sold to large retailers, who use them to determine whether job applicants have been accused of theft by former employers.  The lead plaintiff, Carrie Wirt, had begun working for the national retail chain Bon-Ton, when Bon-Ton ordered a retail theft report from HireRight.  The report falsely accused Ms. Wirt of “cash theft” of $2,545 and “associate dishonesty.”  The case was filed in federal court in Manhattan on September 12, 2014.  READ MORE

Past Cases

Learn more about our Past Leading Cases.

Policy Advocacy

Legal Action Center fights to reduce barriers caused by a criminal record. LAC also advocates to expand alternatives to incarceration (ATI) and reentry services and to improve health outcomes in the criminal justice system.

LAC fights to reduce barriers caused by a criminal record in the following areas: 

LAC works to expand alternatives to incarceration (ATI). These sentencing options keep people in the community and address causes of crime. LAC also works to reform sentencing and expand reentry services that help people succeed when they return home.

LAC fights to increase health coverage and access to addiction treatment, including medication-assisted treatment, in the justice system. LAC works to divert more people from the justice system into treatment and to improve care transitions for justice-involved people.

Technical Assistance for Providers

Legal Action Center provides free legal information to New York service providers and government agencies through a telephone hotline. LAC assists dozens of agencies annually with questions about how to obtain and correct criminal record information, prevent discrimination and enforce rights in the workplace.

LAC provides free legal advice to service providers and government agencies in New York on these issues:

  • Getting and correcting your client’s New York State RAP sheet
  • Certificates of Relief from Disabilities or Good Conduct
  • Correcting errors on a commercial background check
  • Denials of jobs and occupational licenses because of a criminal record
  • Denials of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and other publicly funded housing because of a criminal record
  • Discrimination in voting, higher education, guardianship
  • Collecting evidence of rehabilitation

Organizations in New York State that need help on one of the issues described above may call (212) 243-1313.  LAC regrets that, due to limited funding, we can only accept calls on criminal record issues on Tuesday’s & Thursday’s, please call and ask the hours we take calls.

LAC has additional funding to help organizations that serve New Yorkers with HIV/AIDS and has extended call hours for those organizations. If you are calling about your client with HIV/AIDS who needs help with a criminal record, you may call LAC on Monday through Friday during regular business hours.

You also may find the help you need in FAQs or Resources, where there are publications and training materials on all of these topics.

Trainings

Legal Action Center provides trainings to service providers and government agencies in New York on legal issues affecting individuals with criminal records.

LAC conducts trainings for New York service providers about how to help their clients overcome barriers caused by a criminal record.  LAC provides in-person trainings in the New York City area and trainings by webinar to providers in the rest of the State.

Our customized trainings cover topics, such as:

  • Overcoming Employment & Housing Barriers for People with Criminal Records

Upcoming trainings

LAC only conducts a limited number of trainings on these topics. To request  training for your organization, or for more information about LAC’s trainings generally, contact Vanessa Severino.

Stay tuned for an upcoming webinar accessible through this website.

Past training materials

Visit Resources for materials from past trainings as well as additional publications on all of these topics.

Resources

Legal Action Center has many helpful resources regarding criminal records-related legal issues. Our publications, webinars, and training materials are especially useful for individuals with criminal records, service providers, and policy makers.

Visit Resources to view and download free:

  • Publications
  • Webinars and Videos
  • Training materials
  • Forms

You can also visit our FAQs page to learn more about the rights of people with criminal records.

Achievements

Learn more about Legal Action Center’s past Achievements in Criminal Justice.

Visit our Accomplishments section for highlights of our Criminal Justice accomplishments.

Visit our Clients Stories section for examples of the ways in which we have worked with our clients in the past.

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