McGeorge School of Law alumnus helps formerly incarcerated individuals find success

A man wearing a suit smiles for a photo outdoors

Giovanni Pesce, ’15, has dedicated his career to helping formerly incarcerated individuals become successfully reintegrated into society. Pesce works at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and specializes in re-entry work. He provides legal representation and assists formerly incarcerated individuals in overcoming barriers in securing housing, employment, and education.

Pesce was interviewed in a video by the Los Angeles Times documenting the state’s Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program (FFRP). The program includes a private fire crew – the Buffalos – which is made up of formerly incarcerated individuals who were sent to prison fire camps and received firefighter training while incarcerated. Post-incarceration, the Buffalos receive additional training and experience through the program so they can pursue careers in the field. 

Pesce helps clients expunge their records, which makes it easier for them to obtain full-time employment as firefighters. 

Pesce assists individuals who were formally incarcerated in receiving access to an employment service provider. They receive help on drafting resumes, conduct practice interviews, and get the opportunity to meet with a behavioral health therapist. Pesce works in the legal section of the program. 

“I'm passionate about direct services and meeting clients where they're at and assisting them,” Pesce said. “You have these small victories with every client that you help. You get a little bit happier because you know in the end that you are helping people get back into the world safely.” 

Pesce decided to pursue his education at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law because he was attracted to the school’s tight-knit community and the connections McGeorge had with the California State Capitol. He was driven to pursue a JD because of his passion for advocacy.

“I saw it as an avenue where I could use my training and education to provide a service for other individuals. From a young age, I had distinct memories of wanting things to be fair. As I got older, I realized things aren’t fair,” Pesce said. “My degree provided an avenue to advocate for the little guy.”

During his time at McGeorge, Pesce said he was able to get the first-hand legal experience he needed to achieve his career goals through the school’s externship program. During those externships, Pesce worked with different nonprofit organizations and the Sacramento Public Defenders’ Office.

“I always appreciated the faculty there being open to what the students need and meeting folks where they're at,” Pesce said. “Those opportunities allowed me to get my credits and do more practical things with the externships, and I think that's where I learned how to really be a lawyer.” 

Previously, Pesce interned at the Tommy Clinkenbeard Legal Clinic. The Clinic was named after Tommy Clinkenbeard, a Sacramento County public defender and McGeorge alumnus. The Clinic assists unhoused community members and low-income individuals in clearing tickets and arrest warrants for petty offenses that can accrue with homelessness. Pesce’s former supervisor, Ron Blubaugh, ’75, said Pesce had a natural predisposition for serving the community.

“The first thing I observed about Giovanni was his calm temperament and willingness to engage with our clients no matter how they were when they came into the office,” Blubaugh said. “He has a natural way of putting people at ease while helping them. Giovanni helped a lot of people during the few months he was with us, and I was not at all surprised when he went to a legal services job in Los Angeles.” 

For students wanting to follow a similar career path, Pesce advises taking advantage of the externship and internship opportunities at McGeorge.

“Get that practical experience and see what it's like to be a lawyer day in and day out. If you want to do direct services, start working with the population that you think you might be working with because it's helpful to build that skill,” Pesce said.

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