Rachel E. López, associate professor of law at Drexel’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law and director of the Andy and Gwen Stern Community Lawyering Clinic, was awarded the Law and Society Association Article Prize for “Redeeming Justice,” along with co-authors Terrell Carter, social justice activist, and Kempis “Ghani” Songster, program director at Healing Futures Restorative Justice Diversion Program.
The Law and Society Association Article Prize recognizes exceptional scholarship in the field of sociolegal studies for an article published in English in the previous two years and bestows a cash prize of $500.
“Redeeming Justice” appeared in the Northwestern University Law Review in October 2021. The article addresses the legal right to redemption on a personal level, amplifying the voices of those directly impacted by criminal law, as co-authors Carter and Songster both received life sentences without parole (LWOP).
Carter served 29 years of a LWOP prison sentence before being granted clemency from Gov. Tom Wolf in July 2022. Songster was sentenced to LWOP as a juvenile and served 30 years in prison before being resentenced and released pursuant to the Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama.
In “Redeeming Justice,” the authors assert that the legal right to redemption is embedded in the Eighth Amendment through the concept of human dignity and, therefore, all prison sentences should be reviewable.
“The reading of the Eighth Amendment we call for would require a dramatic reimagination of the U.S. criminal legal system into one that elevates humanity, not deprives it. One that creates the opportunity for healing and human development, not denies it. One that facilitates the human capacity for redemption, not forbids it. One, in other words, that recognizes that change is always possible,” said the article’s abstract.
“Professor López is doing pathbreaking scholarship that adds a critical new perspective to Eighth Amendment jurisprudence,” said Dean Daniel M. Filler. “It’s wonderful to see the Law and Society Association recognize the power of this work.”
On Oct. 7, 2021, the Harvard Carr Center for Human Rights Policy presented a live-streamed event on YouTube for “Redeeming Justice” as part of a series, The Fierce Urgency of Now, alluding to a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., and focusing on the intersection of racial, economic, and social justice in the U.S.
López directs the Kline School of Law’s Andy and Gwen Stern Community Lawyering Clinic, in which students represent individual clients and families in Drexel’s neighboring communities who face legal issues, provide training to community residents who face common problems, and publish reports that advocate for policy changes that would promote justice and equality for Drexel’s neighbors. The Stern Clinic was instrumental in pushing for Carter’s recent release.