Kevin McCarthy

Job title: 

Kevin McCarthy (he/him/his) is a first-generation, DSP, 3rd-year transfer student from Orange County, California. Kevin is majoring in legal studies and will attend law school after graduation. Although he just arrived on campus not long ago, he is already involved with the NAVCAL and Underground Scholars communities. Kevin is excited to be at Cal because he believes it is a place where his educational and activism goals can intersect. Kevin's 22 years of experience with the incarceral state has influenced his goals in life greatly. While incarcerated, Kevin witnessed grave injustices every day, leading him to realize that the law can be used as a form of activism. As a result, he accessed the courts to challenge those injustices. The desire to continue his legal education motivated Kevin to pursue UC Berkeley. As a result, Kevin was the first student to be accepted into Cal while still in prison. Kevin is committed to assisting other prisoners to gain admittance into Cal and is closely working with the office of undergraduate admissions to bring a Bachelor’s program into prison. Once Kevin graduates from law school, he plans to continue to advocate for prisoners and other mistreated and marginalized groups. 


  • Created a 30 student cohort at Pleasant Valley State Prison and was able to convince a professor to come to instruct two classes.

  • Participated in three hunger strikes at Pelican Bay State Prison in opposition to long-term solitary confinement. 

  • Through a habeas petition, established his right to participate in a hunger strike. 

  • Through a habeas petition, forced CDCR and the Attorney General’s Office to acknowledge that they erred in their construction of a California Penal Code. This acknowledgment led CDCR to revise one of their early-release credit-earning regulations, which not only reduced Kevin's sentence, but also the sentences of similarly situated inmates.

  • Discovered a sentencing error (missed by his appellate attorney) and a change in law, which won him a two-year, four-month sentence reduction through a habeas petition.

  • Won numerous resentencing hearings for inmates on a multitude of grounds.

  • Filed for a court injunction against CDCR’s practice of staging gladiator fights between rival gang members at Pleasant Valley State Prison. The pending litigation caused CDCR to halt this practice. The case is still pending. Attended evidentiary hearing.

  • Facilitated numerous self-help groups in prison: Criminals and Gang Members Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery, Lifer’s Support Group/Parole Board Preparation.

  • Tutored inmates in law, GED preparation, college courses, and Spanish.

  • First-person in UC Berkeley’s history to be accepted while still incarcerated.

  • Published article in San Jose Mercury News and Solitary Watch

  • Submitted Haas proposal to Leah Carroll

  • Work-study with Underground Scholars

  • Creating a pre-law cohort between USI and Berkley Law Defenders
  • Crankstart Scholarship winner

  • Haas Scholar 

  • Published UCLA Law Review 

  • On Coalition for Assembly Bill 990 and Senate Bill 416 

  • Was asked to give expert testimony for SB 416 by Senator Hueso's office 

  • Chancellor’s Award: Mather Good Citizen Award 2022-2023


Congratulations Kevin for your recent acceptance into Columbia Law School!