Published on: Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Second year law student Erik Beitzel, a certified student attorney with the UST Law Community Justice Project, was recently announced the recipient of the program’s 2013 Student Service Learning Award.
During his time with the Community Justice Project (CJP), Beitzel has helped organize a local campaign related to promoting fair hiring practices for those who have a criminal record. Presently, a criminal record can serve as a barrier to becoming gainfully employed for many since one in four individuals have a criminal record. This trend disproportionately impacts communities of color.
Beitzel and his CJP case team partner, second year law student Melissa Martinez, are working to address this disparity by conducting legal research on the issue and engaging in policy development initiatives. Beitzel began this process by drafting a complaint letter to initiate a legal cause of action for the many community members who are excluded from the hiring process due to their past convictions. He also became the in-house resident expert on employment law and its intersections with criminal law and subsequent collateral consequences. Fair hiring practices would provide this marginalized group with the opportunity to have a second chance and become active contributors in society. Beitzel is compiling this information into a report to be submitted to Take Action Minnesota, CJP's community partner on the project.
“Through the culmination of these efforts, he has effectively served as a voice for the masses of people who have been excluded for competing in the job market due to having criminal record,” said Dr. Artika Tyner, director of diversity of the UST Law Community Justice Project.
As a result of Beitzel’s hard work, Tyner said, his case team has advanced the cause of justice and reached many milestones.
“They have supported our community partner in laying a solid foundation for reform efforts in the arena of fair hiring. It is this type of morally responsible leadership that exemplifies the qualities of service learning.”