This report describes the role that racial bias plays in the practices of police and traffic courts in California. Using records collected from the Dept. of Motor Vehicles, U.S. Census, and a host of police departments, the authors offer evidence that a disproportionate number of license suspensions and arrests related to unpaid fines and fees exacerbate poverty among low-income populations. The discussion also includes true accounts of such experiences as well as recommendations for alleviating issues related to the criminal justice system’s handling of traffic infractions.
Policymakers and Funders
The Brookings Institution presents a report outlining a multifaceted view of poverty in the United States. Researchers expand traditional definitions by highlighting the impacts of household income, education, poverty related to area of residence, health insurance, and employment, with focus on racial inequity. Trends in census data as well as implications for policy change are discussed.
Medical-Legal Partnerships (MLPs) offer a unique union between legal aid and health care services. Focusing on the operations of Veteran Health Administration (VHA) medical centers in Connecticut and New York, this report describes MLP development and application in the context of veterans’ needs. After discussing the critical needs of the veteran population, the authors conclude with steps regarding how to go about establishing an MLP.
This report by the Florida Bar Foundation provides quantifiable evidence to support the economic argument for civil legal aid. Data collected from the work of 33 organization in Florida indicates that providing pro bono service to low-income individuals results in substantial social and economic returns.
This report details the economic and social benefits driven by civil legal services in Maine in 2015. The report finds one-to-one civil legal aid assistance involving a variety of issues generated approximately $37 million in 2015 for the state.
This report explores a large body of empirical evidence showing that increased access to legal services via medical legal partnerships can substantially improve health outcomes. Built on the merger of legal aid and health care providers, the medical-legal partnership (MLP) approach provides a more holistic model for addressing social and health related issues among low income populations. The author offers several policy recommendations to develop sustainable funding for MLP programs that pursue legal resolutions to health-harming social risks.
Civil Legal Services and Medical Legal Partnerships Needed by the Homeless Population: A National Survey
Surveying a sample of 48 homeless service sites across 26 states, this study seeks to better understand Medical-Legal Partnership on a national scale. Results indicate that a vast majority of patients experience at least one civil legal issue, most often related to housing, employment, health insurance, and disability benefits. In addition, most sites lacked training to screen for civil legal issues and reported an interest in developing partnerships to better serve vulnerable populations.
Incorporating over 100 interviews as well as relevant literature and empirical data, this Human Rights Watch article develops a comprehensive assessment of practices that fail to serve equal access to justice in debt buying cases. Additionally, it describes potential solutions to alleviate inequality in the courts through reform legislation and increased funding for legal aid programs focused on serving low-income clients.
Legislating Forgiveness: A Study of Post-Conviction Certificates as Policy to Address the Employment Consequences of a Conviction
A criminal record poses a variety of challenges to becoming a productive, law-abiding member of society. Certificates restoring eligibility for employment and certain licenses possess the potential to help individuals with a criminal record overcome such obstacles to achieve successful reentry. This study indicates that while the value of these documents often goes unrecognized by courts and employers, evidence suggests that legal aid providers can act as powerful advocates for expanding access to and successful implementation of certificates, ultimately facilitating stable employment.
The Community Listening Project, sponsored by the DC Consortium of Legal Service Providers, assesses the various challenges experienced by D.C.’s poorest residents in an effort to determine how to better serve members of the community in most need of assistance. Through these efforts, participants identified housing, transportation, neighborhood concerns, employment, and debt as the greatest challenges to overcoming poverty. In addition to gaining a more informed understanding of the issues affecting low-income individuals, this research highlights the power that the law has to drive social change in the pursuit of meaningful justice for all.