Who We Are
TJLP is a group of radical activists, social workers, and organizers who provide support, advocacy, and free, holistic advocacy and criminal legal services to poor and street-based transgender people in Illinois. Our organization is composed of collective members, folks who receive services, attorneys, interns, volunteers, and advisers.
FOLKS WHO RECEIVE SERVICES
Clients are transgender and gender non-conforming folks who receive legal services from TJLP. We prioritize legal advocacy for folks of color, poor and street-based people, folks who have experienced incarceration or policing, folks living with HIV/AIDS, youth, immigrants, undocumented people, people with mental/physical disabilities, and folks who are in the sex trade and street economies. TJLP works on a client-centered model, meaning that clients have full autonomy over the legal services that TJLP is giving them. In other words, because they know their lives better than anybody, clients have the final say over their case.
TJLP provides holistic criminal legal services, which can take the form of direct criminal defense, expungement and sealing, access to legal name changes and identity documents, formal complaints against correctional staff, advocacy surrounding illegal discrimination in a variety of institutions, etc. Because we see legal services as part of a harm reduction strategy for criminalized people and a larger movement for prison abolition, we make a commitment to advocate for our clients in the long-term. This innovative model prioritizes a long-term commitment to our clients’ lives, not just their singular criminal case or legal issue, as well as connecting people on the inside to their peers, friends, family, allies, advocates, transformative justice models and alternatives, and the larger prison abolition movement.
TJLP attorneys provide legal representation using an abolitionist framework, a client-centered practice model, and an anti- oppression framework. Typically, the role that lawyers play in the lives of marginalized communities is to mystify the legal system, further disempowering those communities (and securing the lawyer’s job) by establishing lawyers as the only people who can understand the legal system and explain its impact. TJLP’s client-centered services challenge this traditional hierarchy of lawyer/client by building trust, sharing power, and sharing full information with those who are targeted by the legal system.
In order to best serve our clients and stay true to our values, all TJLP attorneys must have a thorough understanding of how to practice law guided by the beliefs that, 1) the prison system is inherently oppressive, cannot be trusted, and should not exist, 2) the client knows their needs, life circumstances, and body better than anyone, and deserves full autonomy over their case, and 3) the attorneys must always be reflective about how their own identities, privileges, and life experiences influence every interaction with the client.
BOARD OF STEWARDS
TJLP envisions the Board of Stewards to operate in a slightly different capacity than what one might know of what a traditional board is or does. More of a supportive role and less of a director role, hence the untraditional name. As TJLP works to prioritize those left out of traditional models of reform (ie: reject trickle-down policy change) it is important to be intentional in all areas of our structure and work. Thus we see the Board of Stewards providing oversight and lending their knowledge and experience to assist the staff in carrying out the mission and work of the organization. Learn about our Board Stewards Here.
TJLP’s Advisory Crews assist members of TJLP by providing advice and guidance on issue-based decisions, project development, and accountability. People become advisers via invitation from the TJLP Collective. Advisers can be folks who receive TJLP services, attorneys, academics, educators, activists, financial experts, former TJLP members, and folks with a long-term connection to TJLP.
TJLP sometimes takes on interns over the summer and for shorter periods of time throughout the rest of the year (e.g. one semester). Interns are selected by collective members using a consensus model, on the basis of their commitment to TJLP’s three core values, their critical understanding of privilege and oppression, and their ability to complete needed tasks. Interns are supervised by a collective member during their time at TJLP, and adhere to the rules of attorney/client privilege under TJLP’s law practice.
Volunteering is a way to assist TJLP with less intensive time commitments and responsibilities than collective members and interns have. The time commitment for a volunteer can be anything from helping out for one day on a specific initiative or activity, helping facilitate and maintain an entire project on an ongoing basis, co-facilitating a skillshare, etc. Volunteers are expected to have a basic anti-oppression framework before coming to TJLP.