Criminal Justice Reform Will Fall Short If We Fail to Invest in Civil Legal Aid

Unless policymakers also invest in civil legal aid to support formerly incarcerated people who are re-entering their communities, efforts to dismantle mass incarceration are doomed to fail.

Blog Post (NATIONAL)

Rebecca Vallas
October 27, 2015

Tags: Criminal Justice, Expungement / Record Sealing


So, what does all of this have to do with civil legal aid? Even though civil legal aid attorneys do not represent defendants in criminal proceedings, they play a critical role in dismantling a system that fuels a vicious cycle of re-incarceration by continuing to punish people long after they have served their time.

For example, civil legal aid attorneys help formerly incarcerated individuals secure affordable child support orders and fight other unjust fines and fees, so that they are able to avoid modern-day debtor’s prison. They help people obtain the necessary documentation to replace lost identification—which is key to getting reestablished in society. Civil legal aid attorneys also assist in getting driver’s licenses restored, which can be crucial to getting and keeping a job.

When employers illegally exclude jobseekers with criminal records, civil legal aid can help individuals challenge hiring discrimination. And many civil legal aid attorneys also help people clear their criminal records which improves their chances of finding employment.