Oral History Project

Interview: Attorney John Boston (Spring 2023)

By: Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse

April 7, 2023

An oral history interview with attorney John Boston, conducted by Michigan Law 2L Liz Lewis on April 7, 2023, and April 13, 2023.

Headshot of John Boston in front of a bookshelf.

Interview Summary

In this interview, attorney John Boston discusses several lawsuits challenging jail and prison conditions in New York City and the State of New York that he worked on during his tenure at The Legal Aid Society's Prisoners' Rights Project. These lawsuits addressed overcrowding, health care, violence, educational services, and other conditions of confinement issues. Attorney Boston reflects on lessons learned through this advocacy, including various pathways to reform and the interplay between legislation, like the Prison Litigation Reform Act, and litigation. 

View the full interview with Boston: 

Attorney Boston discusses Prisoners' Rights Project cases including: Rhem v. Malcolm and  Benjamin v. Horn, which addressed overcrowding and conditions of confinement in New York City's jails; Vega v. Ward, regarding access to healthcare on Rikers Island; Inmates of NY with HIV v. Cuomo, seeking health care for people with HIV/AIDS in the state's prisons; Dumont v. Coughlin, challenging state prison mail censorship; Handberry v. Thompson, regarding education for young people in prison; Disability Advocates, Inc., v. New York State Office of Mental Health, seeking adequate mental health care in state prisons; Todaro v. Ward, seeking adequate medical care in state prisons; and Nunez and United States v. City of New York, addressing violence in the City's detention facilities.         


By: Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse

April 7, 2023

Contents: Clearinghouse Oral History Project Interview with Attorney John Boston (Spring 2023)
[00:00-20:36] Early Life, Law School, and Early Career
[20:36-58:13] Lawsuits Challenging Overcrowding in New York City's Jails
[58:13-1:04:55] Vega v. Ward, Challenge to Health Care and Conditions of Confinement on Rikers Island
[1:04:55-1:21:55] Lawsuit Addressing HIV/AIDS Care in New York's Prison System
[1:21:55-1:34:05] Settlement and Dumont v. Coughlin
[1:34:05-2:12:10] The Prison Litigation Reform Act and Handberry v. Thompson
[2:12:10-2:35:00] Mental Health Care in New York's Prisons
[2:35:00-2:42:00] Inadequate Medical Care for Women at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility (Todaro v. Ward)
[2:42:00-2:47:45] Transgender Housing Units in New York City Jails
[2:47:45-2:55:32] The New York City Board of Correction
[2:55:32-3:20:10] Addressing Violence in New York City's Jails
[3:20:10-3:21:30] Addendum on Todaro v. Ward
[3:21:30-3:42:03] Reflections and Advice
[Full Video]