Poor people in America today are not only facing an economic gap – they’re facing a justice gap. Too often, they’re exploited and abused simply for being poor.
They’re victimized by predatory lenders who trap them in a cycle of debt and rob them and their communities of scant resources.
They’re denied access to the social safety net by politicians who stigmatize low-income workers and blame them for our country’s problems.
They’re exploited and imprisoned by local governments that target impoverished communities for revenue-generating traffic fines – and by companies that seek to profit by charging fees for improper but court-ordered “services” like payment plans.
For more than 40 years, we’ve represented the most vulnerable people in society – often those living in poverty who cannot afford to mount legal challenges to the injustices they faced.
Today, our Economic Justice Project is fighting back against deeply engrained policies and practices that exploit or punish the poor simply because of their economic status. Our work has a national reach but is primarily focused on the Deep South.
Currently, we are focused on three primary areas:
1. Reforming policies that trap the poor in a cycle of court debt.
We want to abolish the modern-day debtors’ prisons prevalent in the Deep South and stop the use of “offender-funded” services such as private, so-called “probation” companies that use the power of the justice system to extort payments from the poor.
2. Protecting low-income consumers from predatory practices.
We’re helping lead the charge to protect consumers in Alabama from payday and title lenders that prey upon low-income communities and trap the poor in a cycle of debt. And, we’re educating the public and supporting a national effort to create strong consumer safeguards to rein in this rapacious industry.
3. Protecting the safety net for the poor.
We’re working to ensure that the poor are not denied access to the social safety net. In Tennessee, for example, we filed suit when officials erected barriers to keep many residents from obtaining health care coverage under the state’s Medicaid program. Our suit led to a settlement that has helped over 20,000 people get much-needed decisions about their health care coverage.
We’re committed to ensuring that the most vulnerable in our society are treated with fairness and dignity.