Kimberley Guillemet ’05 wants to bring about sweeping and systemic reform in the criminal justice system. That admirable goal was sparked by her pro bono and clinical experiences as a USC Gould School of Law student.
Now, as manager of the city of Los Angeles’ Office of Reentry, Guillemet works to implement citywide policies and programs that help citizens with a criminal past re-enter society and rebuild their lives, primarily through employment and education.
Mayor Eric Garcetti established the office — the first in Los Angeles’ history — in the summer of 2015, tapping Guillemet to build it from the ground up. No other U.S. city has a similar office, according to Guillemet, which means she had no existing model to follow. She is, however, building the office on a solid foundation based upon her understanding of restorative justice.
Before coming to the Mayor’s Office, Guillemet served as a deputy attorney general in the Division of Recidivism Reduction and Re-Entry at the California Department of Justice. Before that, she was an attorney for Disability Rights California and she taught in the L.A. Unified School District.
A path toward advocacy
Guillemet took her first steps on the path of reform and advocacy for underserved citizens soon after she arrived at USC.
“Two impactful experiences at Gould helped me frame the way I was going to work in criminal justice and set me on a course toward restorative justice,” Guillemet said.
The first was her involvement with the school’s Street Law program, which teaches students about different aspects of the law and how it relates to their lives.
“It was very small with not much participation when a classmate and I decided to build it out,” she said.
The law students took the program into several LAUSD high schools, where they taught legal rights and the legal process. The program continues to thrive with law students teaching legal literacy to high school and middle school students.
A defining experience
Within the program, students who are certified as legal interns represent parole-eligible inmates.
“Visiting a person in prison makes you see life in a different way,” Guillemet said of the experience. “It was an impactful experience and issues around criminal justice crystallized for me.”