Legal Education

Minnesota lifer may be first woman to take proctored LSAT in prison

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A Minnesota inmate sentenced to life in prison without parole may be the first woman to take a proctored Law School Admission Test while incarcerated.

Maureen Onyelobi has taken the LSAT three times, including twice while in prison, report CBS Minnesota and SW News Media. She studied with the help of the Prison-to-Law Pipeline program, which aims to help Minnesota prisoners obtain ABA-accredited paralegal and law degrees through remote education.

Nonprofit groups All Square and Until We Are All Free are working on the program with the Mitchell Hamline School of Law and the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

Onyelobi was sentenced in November 2014 for aiding and abetting a premeditated murder in a drug-related shooting. She says her problems began when she fell in love with a heroin addict who abused her.

“A lot of times I’ll replay that night, but there’s nothing I can do. All I can do is move forward,” Onyelobi told CBS Minnesota. “To say that I don’t deserve a second chance is to say you don’t deserve a chance. Everybody deserves a second chance.”

With the help of volunteers, Onyelobi continues to study in hopes of snagging an LSAT score that is high enough to gain admission to a remote educational program at the Mitchell-Hamline in St. Paul. According to an April press release by Mitchell-Hamline, the remote JD program would need the approval of faculty and the ABA.

“We’ve talked about being an antiracist law school, and our faculty passed a resolution committing to being an antiracist law school,” said Dean Anthony Niedwiecki in the press release. “This project would be an actual step towards being an antiracist law school.”

Onyelobi lives at the Shakopee Women’s Correctional facility. She and an inmate at the Stillwater Correctional Facility are the only two people currently participating in the program.

Onyelobi hopes to one day be pardoned, but she says her legal studies are still giving her a sense of purpose. “God has a reason why he does everything. If I have to stay here forever, I’ll stay here forever,” Onyelobi told SW News Media. “But now, I have a sense of pride that I didn’t have when I got here.”

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