Drug Policy, Education, and Decriminalization (DECrim) Project

DECrim SLP Project Leaders Fall 2023: Mia Stange, Ami Shirriff, and Grace Erger
Ami Shirriff, Grace Erger, and Mia Stange, co-founders of the Drug Policy, Education, and Decriminalization Project

With lots of pro bono engagement and leadership experience, besides community at the center of their hearts, Ami, Grace, and Mia introduce the DECrim project commencing this Fall 2023 Semester.

They share, “As co-founders and co-leaders, we were motivated to start DECrim based on our own backgrounds and interests in public health, harm reduction, and public defense.

We hope that DECrim can serve both as a research and advocacy project and as a community for people with interests in harm reduction and drug policy across the law school. While there are some SLPs whose work touches on drug policy, we were interested in founding a SLP project that focuses on the legal rights of drug users. The history of drug policy in the United States is a history of racism and classism. Drug laws have been both explicitly in some cases, and implicitly in others, used to punish communities of color and poor communities. We hope to highlight both these government policies and community responses to it in our research and work.”

What is DECrim all about? 

“The purpose of DECrim is to identify and research evidentiary issues in the prosecution and criminalization of drug use across the United States.

DECrim aims to shine a light on these practices and provide legal advocates the tools to better litigate these issues in the courtroom. Students in DECrim will have the opportunity to engage in pro bono that highlights this issue to the broader public.”

When expressing the need of this project at Berkeley Law, they convey, “the history of drug use in the United States is one of resilience, of communities who have supported and bolstered each other through networks of care, and of the development of harm reduction models and liberatory practices.

DECrim intends to practice through a harm reduction lens, meaning we strive to serve our community – both the community at Berkeley Law and the communities impacted that we hope to serve through our work – with integrity, competence, respect for human relationships, respect for the inherent dignity and worth of all people, and a commitment to promoting social justice.”

The DECrim project will work under the supervision of attorneys at the Drug Policy Alliance, the leading advocacy organization in the country working to end the War on Drugs and advance humane drug policy. DPA has been instrumental in recent statewide drug decriminalization bills and is committed to building community power, gathering resources to support people impacted by the War on Drugs and their advocates, and fighting for the rights of drug users to exist and to negotiate their own relationship to drug use.

DECrim is one of two new pro bono Student-Initiated Legal Services Project launching this Fall Semester at Berkeley Law’s Pro Bono Program and one of 40 SLPS projects. Click to read more about Berkeley Law’s Student-Initiated Legal Services Project, and other enriching pro bono opportunities. 

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