The Boston Bar Association is proud to announce Leslie Walker, Executive Director of Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, will receive the John G. Brooks Award for Legal Services for her longtime, outstanding dedication to fighting for humane treatment of prisoners in Massachusetts prisons. The award presentation will take place at the BBA’s annual Law Day Dinner on April 26.
Prisoners’ Legal Services works to protect the civil rights of Massachusetts prisoners through litigation, administrative advocacy, client counseling, and outreach to policy makers and the public. Walker has been with the organization for 17 years. Prior to that, she spent 16 years with the Committee for Public Counsel Services in both the public counsel division and the private counsel division as the Director of Legal Resources and Support Services.
In her capacity as Executive Director of Prisoners’ Legal Services, Walker has been an outspoken advocate for policy changes to facilitate access to protect the human dignity of prisoners and their access to justice. In particular, she has been a vocal opponent of solitary confinement. In addition to her legislative advocacy to eliminate the practice, she frequently leads educational programs for attorneys and speaks to the media about its harmful effects.
A recent example of Walker’s leadership led to a significant step forward in healthcare for Massachusetts Prisoners. In 2015, Prisoners’ Legal Services collaborated with the National Lawyers Guild to file a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court on behalf of prisoners with Hepatitis C who were not receiving medical treatment for the disease. Last month, the Department of Correction agreed to a settlement that requires prisoners to be treated for Hepatitis C within 12 to 18 months, depending on the severity of their case. The landmark settlement also requires all new prisoners to be tested for Hepatitis C.
Walker oversees a small staff with a big impact on the community. The organization’s website notes that the typical prisoner-to-lawyer ratio at Prisoners’ Legal Services is just under 3,000 to one. Still, the organization’s efforts over the years have contributed to significant reforms, and paved the way for crucial conversations with government leaders regarding the quality of life of those in prison.
The Boston Bar Association is incredibly proud to honor Walker in recognition of her lifelong commitment to representing underserved populations, both in court and through her advocacy efforts on Beacon Hill. We look forward to presenting the Brooks Award at Law Day Dinner.
Prisoners’ Legal Services is a grantee organization of the Boston Bar Foundation.