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Young Lawyers’ Section receives national award for Civics to Inmates program

The American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division presented a first place Award of Achievement to The Missouri Bar Young Lawyers’ Section for its public service Civics to Inmates program during the YLD Assembly at the ABA Annual Meeting held in Chicago on August 1, 2015.

The Civics to Inmates program provides civics education taught by volunteer lawyers to those incarcerated in Missouri’s prison system. The pilot program took place at the Algoa Correctional Center in Jefferson City in the spring of 2014. The program has been offered three times and volunteers are gearing up for a fourth series set for the fall of 2015.

Two years ago, an inmate in Missouri’s prison system expressed a desire to know more about American government. He reached out to then Chief Justice Mary Russell of the Supreme Court of Missouri because he had read in a news article that she was dedicated to improving civics education for Missouri citizens. Russell asked The Missouri Bar Citizenship Education Program and the Department of Corrections to explore the possibility of offering an advanced civics class to prison inmates. The Missouri Bar created a curriculum and recruited volunteers to teach the program.

More than a dozen members from the Mid-Missouri Young Lawyers Association (MMYLA) have volunteered for the program at the Algoa Correctional Center to date.

“Volunteering as a teacher with the civics education program at Algoa Correctional Center has been a tremendously awarding experience,” said Jason Paulsmeyer, a Jefferson City lawyer who is a member of MMYLA and The Missouri Bar’s Board of Governors. “The first time I taught the class, I was concerned about having enough material to fill the class time, but the students were actively engaged in the discussion from the very beginning of class and the class time was over long before I had covered all the prepared material. Millie and The Missouri Bar staff have done a great job providing material and preparing volunteers to teach the classes, but the students’ interest in discussing civics and government is what keeps me coming back as a volunteer.”

MMYLA members currently compose all of the program volunteers and the bar continues to provide training and materials. Other young lawyers groups have expressed an interest in expanding the program to inmates in prisons across the state. To learn more or to volunteer, contact Millie Aulbur, Citizenship Education Director for The Missouri Bar.

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