At the beginning of the school year, Andrew Rikard '11 signed up to sit on the Albany Law Review's first-ever Pro Bono Committee.
Since then, the group has developed a robust pro bono program from the ground up, including supporting criminal appeals through the Albany County Public Defender's Office and helping prisoners reintegrate into the community with the Albany County Reentry Task Force (ACRTF). They will also launch a Books through Bars initiative this semester to collect and distribute free reading material for prisoners.
"I act as a liaison between the task force and the Pro Bono Committee, which is also comprised of my classmates Alima Atoui '11, Roslyn Fuller '11, Monica Skanes '11 and Bruce Steves '11," explained Rikard, noting that the project has already provided more than 330 former prisoners with resources to help them transition more effectively into the community.
Each month, the Pro Bono Committee, along with student volunteers, writes letters to prisoners who have pending releases in Albany County. The handwritten letters include lists of county resources available upon release, as well as established methods to remove reentry barriers and reduce the likelihood of recidivism.
Previously, the ACRTF was able to directly contact only a small percentage of prisoners slated for release to Albany County, but through the Pro Bono Committee's project, 100 percent of the prisoners receive a letter during the academic year.
Rikard, a member of the Albany Law Review, will publish a student note "Why and How New York Should Enact Mandatory Statewide Identification Procedures" in the law review's first Miscarriages of Justice, a book forthcoming this semester. While at Albany Law School, he has worked for two years with Prisoners' Legal Services of New York, and he has also served as a law clerk at Latham-based Hacker Murphy, LLP.
"I decided to attend law school once I recognized the power for change and social good that any holder of a J.D. can wield," said Rikard. "There are few other professions that allow you to interpose yourself between the enormous power of government and the relatively powerless citizenry."
Rikard, who said that he would ultimately like to work as a public interest or civil rights attorney, studied communication during his undergraduate studies at SUNY Delhi and Suffolk University. He is from Prattsville, N.Y.
The Albany Law Review Pro Bono Committee is seeking volunteers for the Albany County Reentry Task Force project. The committee also accepts donations of stamps and envelopes; a collection box is located near the library. For more information, contact Andrew Rikard at email@example.com.