Spring 2020 Legal Intern, National Prison Project

  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • Washington D.C., DC, USA
  • Oct 22, 2019
Intern Law

Job Description

For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has been our nation’s guardian of liberty, working in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States. Whether it’s ending mass incarceration, achieving full equality for the LGBT community, establishing new privacy protections for our digital age, or preserving the right to vote or the right to have an abortion, the ACLU takes up the toughest civil liberties cases and issues to defend all people from government abuse and overreach. With more than a million members, activists, and supporters, the ACLU is a nationwide organization that fights tirelessly in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., for the principle that every individual’s rights must be protected equally under the law, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, national origin, record of arrest or conviction.

The National Prison Project of the ACLU’s National Office in Washington, D.C. seeks undergraduate interns for the Spring of 2020. The interns will primarily be working closely with a team of NPP staff attorneys, litigation fellows, paralegals, and campaign strategist to create change in prison conditions through class action litigation and strategic legislative and advocacy campaigns.


Founded in 1972 by the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Prison Project (NPP) seeks to ensure constitutional conditions of confinement in prisons, jails, juvenile facilities, and immigration detention facilities. The Project seeks to promote prisoners’ rights through class action litigation and public education. Its priorities include reducing prison overcrowding, improving prisoner medical care, eliminating violence and maltreatment, and increasing oversight and accountability in prisons, jails, and other places of detention.

The Project also works to challenge the policies of over-incarceration that have led the United States to imprison more people than any other country in the world. This is an opportune moment to reform those policies. There is a growing consensus among criminal justice experts and policymakers that America’s criminal justice system has relied too heavily on incarceration as the first and often only response for non-violent behavior that could better be addressed through other means. The population in American prisons and jails has tripled in the past 15 years and now approaches two and a half million. Facilities are overcrowded; medical systems are overwhelmed; work, education, and treatment programs are inadequate; and prison violence has increased. This failed experiment does not make us safer, it is not affordable, and it exacerbates the racial disparities that have long plagued the criminal justice system.

The Project, with a staff of six lawyers, has fought and continues to fight unlawful prison conditions and practices through successful litigation on behalf of prisoners in more than 25 states. Since 1991, the Project has represented prisoners in five cases before the United States Supreme Court. The ACLU is the only organization litigating prison conditions of confinement nationwide on behalf of men, women, and children.


The internships require a commitment for the semester and arrangements can be made with the student’s school for a work/study stipend or course credit. The internship can be a full time position or a part time position with a minimum of 12-15 hours per week. The spring semester internship has a preferred start date in January, 2020.


Interns will have the opportunity to gain valuable experience by working alongside the National Prison Project team. Interns assist staff in litigation and public advocacy to combat abuses in our carceral system and to reduce the over reliance on incarceration as a criminal justice sanction.. Work may include the following:

  • Work closely with staff lawyers on major class action civil rights lawsuits in federal court
  • Draft pleadings and briefs, discovery and motion practices, and assist with trials and appeals
  • Provide technical assistance to ACLU local affiliates, cooperating lawyers, and other lawyers who seek assistance from the Project
  • Other projects as assigned


This internship is open to all students who are enrolled into law school before the internship commences. Interns should possess the following:

  • A strong interest in criminal justice and a commitment to civil rights
  • Strong organizational skills and the ability to work independently
  • Excellent research, writing and communication skills
  • A commitment to diversity within the office using a personal approach that values all individuals and respects differences in regards to race, ethnicity, age, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, religion, ability and socio-economic circumstance
  • Commitment to the mission of the ACLU


Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Students are encouraged to submit applications as early as possible as decisions are made on a rolling basis.

This posting provides a general but not comprehensive list of the opportunities of the internship. It does not represent a contract of employment. The ACLU reserves the right to change the posting at any time without advance notice.

The ACLU is committed to providing reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities. If you are a qualified individual with a disability and need assistance applying online, please e-mail benefits.hrdept@aclu.org.  If you are selected for an interview, you will receive additional information regarding how to request an accommodation for the interview process.



A stipend is available for those students who do not receive outside funding and/or course credit. Arrangements can be made with educational institutions for work/study or course credit.