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, offers a wide range of legal support, including leading “Know Your Rights” workshops and helping students understand and correct errors on their RAP sheets.

For more information or to make an appointment, all Institute participants can contact Ellen Piris Perez at

If you are a CUNY student or a CUNY partner that wishes to refer a student, please fill out the referral form here

CSS also operates a free legal hotline for New Yorkers with conviction histories or past criminal justice system involvement who need legal support. The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm and can be reached at (646) 759-8088. Click here to learn more.

Working with Institute participants, Ellen:

  • Conducts Know Your Rights workshops on pursuing education and 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, 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: