Legal Services

The Institute provides legal services to students through a partnership with the Community Service Society of New York (CSS). Ellen Piris Perez, an attorney from CSS, provides “Know Your Rights” workshops to students to learn more about their legal rights, especially in employment settings. Students are referred to Ms. Perez to correct errors on their RAP sheets to help better position them as they pursue their educational and employment goals. CSS also provides other civil legal services in situations where conviction records are limiting an individual’s ability to fully participate in society.

For more information, or to make an appointment, students enrolled in Institute programs can contact Ellen Piris Perez at

Specifically, Ellen:

  • Conducts Know Your Rights workshops on pursuing education and/or employment with a criminal record
  • Meets with participants to review and correct RAP sheet errors—coaching individuals on which entries are accessible and how to answer questions; providing guidance understanding records and actual vs. perceived barriers; and taking the steps necessary to correct errors
  • Helps eligible students apply for Certificate of Relief from Disabilities and Certificates of Good Conduct, which help people with conviction histories obtain employment, licenses, housing, or other rights
  • Provides legal advice to students who are victims of conviction-based discrimination
  • Represents students in applying to seal convictions
  • Counsels students to ensure they understand their employment rights—especially under the NYC Fair Chance Act—and how to answer questions on applications about criminal legal system involvement

See the video below to hear from Ellen: