Is Preventing Injustice Possible?

What if preventing injustice, not treating it, was the key to equitable communities?
Blog Post Ellen Lawton
Huffington Post
October 6, 2015

Tags: Medical-Legal Partnerships


We are pretty good at “emergency room” style civil justice in the U.S. If you live in poverty and are being wrongfully evicted, or discriminated against at work, or unlawfully denied access to a benefit or service, civil legal aid agencies across the country expertly step in. They are, of course, deeply underfunded and only able to meet about 20 percent of the need that exists, but they are very good at what they do.

But in the U.S., we pour our far too limited resources exclusively into treating these acute needs at the expense of prevention. There is no primary care for civil legal problems. Wouldn’t justice be better served if someone never ended up homeless in the first place, or if she had access to services from the onset?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t fund programs and approaches that provide acute legal care to those facing discrimination or those whose housing and safety is threatened; no one who advocates preventive health care says we should close down every emergency room. But can’t we do both?