INTERVIEW: ALICIA MILLER, SENIOR COUNSEL, FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS
Alicia Miller is originally from upstate New York. She attended Brandeis University in Massachusetts, where she majored in American Studies and minored in Legal Studies. Upon graduation, she began law school at American University, Washington College of Law, in Washington, D.C. During law school, Alicia interned with UNICOR, a government corporation created by Congress in 1934 to help federal inmates learn real-world job skills. She also completed an internship with a public defender’s office and one with a local prosecutor’s office, ultimately deciding to pursue a career in the field of corrections.
Upon graduation from law school, Alicia was hired through the U.S. Attorney General’s Honors Program to work for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Alicia has been employed as an attorney with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for 20 years, taking on roles of increasing responsibility over the years. She currently serves as Senior Counsel in the agency’s South Central Regional Office.
Describe a day in the life of a Bureau of Prisons Senior Counsel.
In my current role, I handle litigation filed by federal inmates, as well as adjudicate administrative tort claims filed by inmates. I also review responses to inmate grievances and provide legal guidance to Wardens and other agency staff. As an attorney inside a federal prison, the work varies from day to day depending upon what may be happening at the facility. Some days may involve research and writing, while other days may involve assisting with a housing unit search for contraband, interviewing staff regarding the facts involved in a lawsuit, or running to a staff assistance call.
What initially attracted you to this field?
When I was in law school, I knew I wanted to help people through my work. I loved the concept of prison industries teaching offenders skills they could use immediately upon release to obtain gainful employment. The idea of changing lives in a positive direction meant a lot to me and still motivates me every day. Although I started in the prison industries branch of the BOP, I have moved numerous times to work in various federal prisons across the country, handling a wide variety of inmate litigation and legal issues which arise in a correctional setting. I also worked as lead agency counsel at the BOP’s Designation & Sentence Computation Center, where staff make all federal inmate designation decisions and sentence computation determinations. Then I worked in the employment law field, representing the agency in EEO and MSPB cases, as well as union arbitration matters. Within the BOP, there are many different types of law to explore.
What are some of the rewards and downsides of this area of law and the legal profession?
In the federal prison system, everyone working inside the prison is a correctional worker first, and all prison staff must graduate from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and serve as a law enforcement officer. All prison staff, whether teacher, cook, or lawyer, must respond to emergencies within the prison. It’s an exciting line of work. I can’t really think of a downside. I’m extremely grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to work for the federal government.
Do you have any advice for an undergraduate interested in pursuing this body of law and the legal profession?
If you’re interested in pursuing the legal profession, please be sure to find balance in your life. Lawyers are generally highly driven and motivated people, but it is essential to find things you enjoy outside of studying. Balance will help your health and help you achieve your long-term goals. Secondly, once you become a lawyer, try to find work you feel makes a difference in the world, even if that is by helping one person with a legal issue they’re facing. It takes many years of studying and dedication to become a lawyer, but don’t give up on yourself. The hard work will be worth it.
Alicia is happy to answer questions and can be reached via email at: AliciaMiller0316@gmail.com.Tags: 2020, February, Newsletter