July 1, 2020

Berg & Androphy Continues Support for Fifth Ward Center for Urban Transformation

Program Aims to Break School-to-Prison Pipeline

The Center for Urban Transformation’s Juvenile Justice Diversion Program is expanding its capacity to defend Fifth Ward’s young people, with a fellowship awarded to graduating UH law student Gavriella Roisman and supervised by attorney Joel Androphy of Berg & Androphy.

The UH Law Center Graduate Fellowship will enhance the Center for Urban Transformation’s capacity to serve young Fifth Ward residents accused of crimes. During the fall semester, Ms. Roisman will provide pro bono legal guidance that will be both effective and compassionate. This will help ensure that poverty does not mean inadequate representation. Quality legal representation will help protect Fifth Ward’s Black and Latino youth from the multigenerational trauma and financial barriers that result from involvement with the judicial system.

The Center’s Juvenile Justice Diversion Program, which is in its first year of operation, aims to break the school-to-prison pipeline and cultivate a culture of compassion. The program aims to divert Fifth Ward students who are deemed at-risk, or are arrested, from involvement with the judicial system. Instead of having a charge filed with the court, adding barriers to future career opportunities, students are invited to participate in the Center’s program that provides holistic case management and opportunities for compassion-based restorative justice, community engagement, and mentoring.

This fellowship will support the work of Joel Androphy, founding member of the Center’s Board of Directors. Mr. Androphy has himself provided pro bono defense for years to Fifth Ward residents including current Center program participants.

According to Mr. Androphy, “Often students with open cases from prior incidents tell us that they have not heard from their court-appointed lawyers recently and their lawyers advise them to plead guilty without fully investigating their cases or explaining their options, against their wishes.” This fellowship’s support will help protect young peoples’ futures until such time as we can build and fully integrate restorative structures to address conflict and trauma.

The program began with an assembly of committed community partners that formed the 5th Ward Public Safety Leadership Council, which is led by the Center and includes the founding organizations of the Center (see below), the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, Harris County Juvenile Probation, Houston Independent School District, and many other community leaders such as those at Wheatley High School and McReynolds Middle School.


About the Center for Urban Transformation: The Center for Urban Transformation is the 501c3 Fifth Ward collaborative of leading Houston community organizations and institutions, including Pleasant Hill
Ministries, Fifth Ward CRC, Berg & Androphy, Legacy Community Health, and Houston Habitat for Humanity that are seeking to collaborate to transform the quality of life of families in the poorest neighborhoods in Houston and build a model for communities across the nation. The Center’s mission is to build resilient families by increasing 5th Ward families’ capacity to grow in all areas that impact the quality of life by working across sectors, fill gaps in services, and apply research to serve the community.