Last week, NPR’s Terry Gross did a captivating interview on Fresh Air with Bryan Stevenson, a human rights lawyer and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative.
Stevenson’s work is not the same as LAF’s – he does criminal defense and fights for the rights of falsely accused death row inmates, and our work is limited to non-criminal matters and civil courts – but our missions overlap significantly. We are both working to combat poverty by providing equal justice for people who couldn’t otherwise afford it. In the interview, he explains:
“We’ve got a bigger population of poor people in this country than we’ve had in a generation, and we’ve got to take on the challenges of poverty. … For me, that means taking it on in a different way. I’m not persuaded that the opposite of poverty is wealth — I’ve come to believe … that the opposite of poverty is justice.”
In our work at LAF, we believe that by providing free legal services in non-criminal matters to people in poverty, we are not just helping our client – we are helping our communities. The National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel even argues that the work of LAF and our partners in civil legal aid is providing substantial benefits to our economy. The Coalition notes that legal aid “helps people prevent events that would be harmful to them and expensive for the larger society, such as domestic violence, long foster care stays, eviction, and health emergencies.”
Together, as attorneys providing legal aid in both civil and criminal matters, we are working to end poverty through justice. We encourage you to check out the Fresh Air interview and join our efforts to end poverty in Chicago and our world.