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justice@american.edu

Justice Programs Office 4801 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 508 Washington, DC 20016-8159 United States

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Approximately 75 million Americans, or about one-in-three adults, have a criminal record and almost half of U.S. children have one parent with a criminal record. Those with criminal records face significant barriers to employment, with an unemployment rate of approximately 27 percent. Having a criminal record reduces the likelihood of a callback for an interview by 50 percent for whites and 72 percent for African Americans. Some of these criminal records do not need to be following people the way that they are, based on the laws on the books. Legal aid can help those who are eligible for expungement and set-asides receive them and assist with transitions.

Read our research brief on how legal aid reduces barriers to employment

Individuals with disabilities can be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). 12.6 percent of Americans have a disability and may be eligible for these benefits. However, receiving benefits when due can often be challenging for individuals. The process for filing a disability claim and asking for a reconsideration if rejected can be difficult without a lawyer’s assistance. When individuals with disabilities have access to legal representation during this process, the likelihood that they will receive benefits increases and their SSI allowance is often greater.

Read our research brief about how legal aid helps individuals with disabilities

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 36.4 percent of women and 33.6 percent of men in the US have been the victim of intimate partner violence (IPV) or domestic violence (DV). Individuals who have experienced domestic violence display a multitude of legal needs. They may require assistance with filing protection orders, custody issues, housing, identity theft, and reducing barriers to keeping a job. Legal aid can help in each of these areas. 

Read our research brief on how legal aid assists domestic violence survivors 

Among the nearly 72,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017, the sharpest increase occurred among deaths related to opioids. Every day, 1,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for opioid overdoses. The total economic burden is estimated to be $504 billion. Of this, $28.9 billion is due to health care costs. Including those in recovery and their extended family members, more than 11 million Americans are affected by the opioid crisis, with 2.1 million addicted. They need our help.

Policymakers know the current epidemic requires a multi-disciplinary response that includes law enforcement, doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, social workers, and case managers. But civil legal aid providers are also essential partners in solving one of America’s most pressing public health issues.

Read the JGP and NLADA's handout about how legal aid helps those affected by the opioid crisis 

There are high social, monetary costs associated with missed instructional time, suspension, expulsions, and drop out. For example, missing three or more days of school in fourth grade a month prior to taking a reading assessment predicts a reduction in reading achievement by one full grade level. Legal aid can help children stay in school, effectively avoiding suspensions and expulsions. Having access to self-help documents and legal advocacy can assist parents with receiving help for a child’s behavioral issues. Legal aid can also help parents overcome procedural barriers to receiving benefits, like free school meals, which allows their children to focus on their education, not where their next meal might be coming from. Child support, in comparison to other sources of income, has been shown to have one of the strongest effects on child educational outcomes. Legal aid services can help ensure that child support orders correctly reflect the ability to pay, increasing the likelihood that parents will make the payments.

Read our research brief on how legal aid keeps kids in school

Between 10 to 15 percent of older Americans experience elder abuse. Elder abuse can take many forms and includes: neglect, financial exploitation, psychological or emotional abuse, or physical and sexual abuse. Abuse is more common in some subpopulations; for example, approximately 47 percent of those with dementia experience abuse. Legal aid can help with setting up power of attorney, working with social services, and assisting with protective orders.

Read our research summary about how legal aid assists elder abuse survivors 

On any given day, there are approximately 443,000 children in foster care. After spending time in foster care, children often experience emotional, social, and behavioral issues. When legal aid can address underlying causes of children entering foster care, like abuse and housing insecurity, it can prevent children from entering foster care in the first place. When children do enter court-supervised out-of-home care, studies show that for parents who have legal representation, their children experience less time spent in foster care, faster rates to adoption and guardianship, and increased parental presence in court.

Read our research brief about how legal aid improves outcomes for children in foster care and child welfare proceedings

27.6 million people as of 2016 (compared to more than 44 million in 2013) remain uninsured. Access to justice has been directly linked to health, where those with less access have been shown to have poorer health. Accessing legal aid services can improve access to healthcare, reduce medical debt, and improve health outcomes. Having access and using legal aid services can reduce stress, improve the health of children, and assist vulnerable populations, like LGBT seniors.

Read our research brief about how legal aid improves health 

Evictions are landlord-initiated moves to expel tenants from their home. Evictions are a leading cause of homelessness. Tenants often do not know their legal rights and often do not have legal representation in eviction hearings. When they do have access to legal representation, they are more likely to remain housed and have their children stay in school. Legal representation can also help them improve housing conditions, such as reducing mold and other allergens.

Read our research brief about how legal aid improves housing outcomes 

In 2015, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that 1,923 criminal suspects were referred to U.S. attorneys for human-trafficking offenses, an increase of 41 percent since the last report. Of them, 729 were prosecuted. Human trafficking survivors often require assistance with safety planning, securing housing, accessing medical and mental health care, identifying appropriate educational resources to find employment opportunities, reducing the barriers to employment, and accessing benefits. Civil legal aid providers can help trafficking survivors access resources like housing, healthcare, employment, and benefits.

Read our research brief about how legal aid assists human trafficking survivors

The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing recommended that law enforcement agencies partner with legal aid agencies to increase trust and keep communities safe. Legal aid can work with law enforcement in several ways, from reducing domestic violence, to protecting consumers, reducing recidivism, and keeping children in school.

Read our research brief about how legal aid partners with law enforcement

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 1.7 percent of the U.S. population are American Indian, Alaska Native alone or in combination. They also experience high rates of poverty. The median household income for Native Americans was $16,450 less than the U.S. as a whole. Studies have shown that Native Americans often experience significant legal issues and have a multitude of unmet legal needs. Native Americans are more likely to experience employment-related problems, and problems with rental housing, law enforcement, healthcare, and education.

Read our research brief about how legal aid works with tribes and tribal members

This research brief focuses on how self-help services improve pro se litigants’ outcomes and increase access to justice. In civil proceedings, individuals are more likely than not to self-represent. Strikingly, in family law proceedings, 62 percent of individuals self-represent and in domestic violence cases, 80 percent of victims self-represent. Self-help services, a form of legal aid, have been found to significantly improve pro se litigants’ outcomes. These services increase access to information, promote public trust, increase court efficiency, and save money.

Read our research brief about how legal aid supports self-represented litigants

This research brief discusses how legal aid can reduce veteran homelessness and improve veteran health. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that on any given night, 40,056 veterans are homeless. The most recent CHALENG survey found that tor male and female homeless veterans, five of their top eleven unmet needs involve legal assistance. Studies on medical-legal partnerships have shown that embedding lawyers in medical settings can help veterans receive benefits due to them.

Read our research brief about how legal aid helps veterans

Debt, identity theft, and consumer finance are some of the most common legal issues facing Americans. While common, more than 75 percent of those facing consumer finance issues do not seek legal help. Studies show that when alleged debtors receive legal representation, they are less likely to experience a default judgement. 

Read our research brief about how legal aid protects consumers 

The Executive Office for Immigration Review reports that over 30 percent of the individuals in pending immigration proceedings were without legal representation in 2018. This figure drops to 14 percent for individuals in detention. When immigrants have legal representation, they are more likely to be released from detention and seek and obtain relief. When children have legal representation in immigration court, 73 percent remain in the U.S., compared to 15 percent who have no legal representation. Immigrants have better outcomes at every stage in the immigration court process when they have legal representation.

Read our research brief on how legal aid improves immigration outcomes

The Justice in Government Project

Learn more about the Justice in Government Project.

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