Villanova Law’s Caritas Clemency Clinic aims to increase access to justice for indigent incarcerated individuals while building essential lawyering skills in students.

One of only a few of its kind in the nation, the Caritas Clemency Clinic was created in response to the First Step Act, a bipartisan bill passed in 2018 that made significant changes to federal compassionate release. The Act expanded the eligibility criteria for determining whether an incarcerated individual has an “extraordinary and compelling reason” which warrants release to their family, including clients who have severe health issues, are elderly and in serious deterioration or due to the death of their child’s caregiver. Certain federal circuits also found that changes in federal sentencing law, and how they contrast to the excessive sentences given to different clients for the same conduct, are extraordinary and compelling reasons for early release. Additionally, the bill now allows Bureau of Prison (BOP) detainees to request their release directly to the court, while previously only the BOP warden could bring a motion for compassionate release.

Villanova Law students will work together under the supervision of faculty to represent incarcerated individuals from across the country seeking compassionate release from prison to their families and communities pursuant to the First Step Act. Students will earn academic credit while serving as their clients’ primary advocates. They will interview and counsel their clients and their clients’ families, collect records, work with experts and professionals within their clients’ communities, create release plans, write a motion and file it in federal court, and possibly argue the motion before a judge. 



  • Client Interviewing and Counseling
  • Attorney/Client Relationship Management
  • Case Planning
  • Fact Investigation
  • Legal Research
  • Legal Writing
  • Preparing and Arguing a Motion


“Mass incarceration is such a critical issue in our society today, and the Clemency Clinic is a way we can work towards helping people on an individual level. The clinical efforts at Villanova Law offer students a real opportunity to make an impactful difference.“
—Katie Kovalsky ’24


If you have questions about the clinics please contact the clinic office. Your inquiry will be directed to the appropriate clinic.

Villanova University
Charles Widger School of Law
Clinical Program

299 N. Spring Mill Road
Villanova, PA 19085

Caritas Clemency Clinic DirectorAmanda Rogers, Assistant Professor