Prisoner Legal Services


Prisoner Legal Services (PLS) is run by the Stanford Prisoner Advocacy and Resources Coalition (SPARC), a student organization dedicated to supporting and advocating for incarcerated individuals and their families. SPARC members currently volunteer with the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department’s Prisoner Legal Services (PLS) to provide pro bono legal services to prisoners at San Francisco County Jail #5 in San Bruno. Supervised by PLS attorneys, student volunteers provide prisoners with legal information on criminal law, conditions of confinement, collateral consequences, custody, release, and miscellaneous civil matters. Generally, our volunteers staff PLS twice a week, but as long as the jail is closed to visitors due to COVID-19 concerns, we are transitioning to a remote format for providing support to PLS’ attorneys and the people incarcerated at CJ# 5.

This year, our Fall program for new members will vary slightly. Instead of shadowing experienced volunteers on jail visits, new members will work on voter information pamphlets and videos for the eligible voters incarcerated in CJ #5 in advance of November’s elections.


Volunteers are asked to commit to one weekly two-hour shift at San Francisco County Jail #5 (about 30 minutes from campus) and complete necessary follow up from jail visits, often including legal research. Our remote volunteer program with PLS will involve a similar research commitment, but will not feature travel to and from the jail. Prior to starting in-person jail visits, students will receive training from PLS attorneys, attend a cultural competency training, and receive security clearance from the Sheriff’s Department.

Although PLS traditionally permits new members to begin pro bono participation in the Winter, we expect new members who join PLS this year to participate in the voter information project this Fall, which will be less of a time commitment than traditional PLS volunteer work.

Open Membership Spots: 10

Adv. Degree Student Participation: Permitted

Winter Start: Permitted; Yes, new volunteers will be required to start in the Fall Quarter.

Eligible for Meeting NYS Bar Pro Bono Requirement: Likely

Language Ability Preference: Spanish proficiency valued, but no language skills required.

Project Leaders: Maddie Walsh, Gabriel Beringer