Washington, DC – Today, Mayor Bowser celebrated the inaugural graduation of paralegals within the Mayor’s Office of Returning Citizens Affairs (MORCA) Paralegal Fellowship Program. The Paralegal Fellowship Program was designed as part of Mayor Bowser's ongoing commitment to providing District residents with a fair shot and the tools they need to be successful. These paralegals are highly qualified, previously incarcerated men and women, who had all, through their incarceration experience, become adept at legal work and research, but who still could not find employment in the legal field because of the tremendous stigma and other barriers resulting from their pasts. Upon graduation from Georgetown University’s rigorous paralegal studies certification program, all graduates are signed on to be hired for a full-pay/full-benefit, one-year paralegal fellowship at some of the largest and most well-regarded law firms and legal organizations in the country.
“In Washington, DC, we value second chances. As we continue our relentless pursuit of a fair shot for every Washingtonian, we know that we must continually find new ways to overcome the barriers our residents face and create new pathways to the middle class,” said Mayor Bowser. “Our hope is that this program is just the beginning—that it will not only create new opportunities, but prove what is possible and serve as a model for future programs for our talented and hard-working community of returning citizens. Once again, congratulations to our graduates and thank you for making us DC proud.”
MORCA’s Paralegal Fellowship Program brings together, in partnership, the DC government, in MORCA and the Department of Employment Services (DOES), with Georgetown University, as well as UBER and Macy’s Inc. For the program, Georgetown reconstituted their revered Paralegal Studies Certification Course, DOES provided soft skills and computer training to the students, and Uber donated free rides for all of the fellows for the duration of their courses, which was 13 weeks long. After their classes were complete and before they began work in the law firms, Macy’s held a styling and fitting event where all graduates were styled and given over $500 in professional clothing.
All graduates are DC residents with some having only recently returned from serving over 20 years in prison, while a few others came to MORCA homeless and without any job prospects, despite their tremendous skill sets.
MORCA is tasked by the Mayor with providing support and connection to resources for all of the District’s formerly incarcerated (and otherwise justice-involved) residents. Creating innovative programs to assist DC’s returning citizens with overcoming barriers to success is one of the many central functions of the agency.