Our civil justice system is facing a crisis. Millions of poor Americans have legal needs that go unmet. From domestic violence, unlawful evictions, to the loss of veterans’ health or disability benefits. Without the proper legal attention, these legal issues can have a downward spiraling effect, triggering even more legal issues. Many are left to navigate this complex legal terrain on their own, leaving them almost no chance to prevail and entrenched in poverty traps. The consequences of this bleak state has disproportionally devastated poor communities of color throughout major U.S cities.
The access to justice crisis we face in our country is the inevitable outcome of failed policies, institutions, and bureaucracies spanning beyond the legal domain- including housing, education, healthcare, and employment.
The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School has undertaken bold steps to address our nation’s systematic issues through the recent launch of The Houston/Marshall Plan for Community Justice.
The Houston/Marshall plan calls to empower the individuals and communities most affected by inequitable outcomes to be at the center of the community driven solutions and interventions aimed to restore justice for poverty entrenched communities. The website serves as an open source hub for new innovations, public advocacy, and programs designed to rebuild and enrich our communities.
“The Houston/Marshall Plan proceeds from a simple premise: These voices must be raised, heard, and at the center of our efforts to rebuild.”
The site has a wealth of the latest academic research and resources broken down in eight core areas: Economic Stability, Housing, Safety and Healing, Infrastructure, Public Health, Education, Coalition Building, and Technology. Notice “Access to Justice” or “Legal” not mentioned? As the law and legal issues are inextricably intertwined into each of the aforementioned areas.
Moving beyond just a legal solution can have a multiplier effect in addressing the underlying causes of impoverished communities unmet legal needs. Only then will we be able to move beyond the hollow rhetoric of ensuring 100% legal access in order to take bold steps bridge the access to justice gap and reach the goal of ensuring justice for all.