Rio Scharf runs the decriminalization clinic, a clinic that focuses on the many ways the criminal legal system targets poor people and drives people deeper into poverty. Through the clinic, Rio provides legal services for those facing unlawful bail contracts, those struggling with debt from criminal fines and fees, and those otherwise being criminalized for their poverty. In addition to providing direct legal services, Rio advocates for fairer policies related to criminal fines and fees and litigates to address some of the most harmful practices in the bail and criminal debt industries.
Before law school, Rio was involved in grassroots organizing in the Bay Area for many years. They focused especially on tenant organizing—through the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, and East Bay Solidarity Network. They also organized to support incarcerated people in California’s women’s prisons as a volunteer with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners. Rio’s past organizing experience informs every aspect of their legal work– their focus on grassroots organizing, their belief in the power of mass mobilization, and their optimism that a better world remains possible.
Rio comes to LCCRSF as an Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by Latham & Watkins. They graduated from Harvard Law School, cum laude, in 2020 and completed their Bachelor’s Degree in Community Studies at UC Santa Cruz in 2012.