Investing in Justice Campaign in Action

January 26, 2016

CAASE Flips the Script on Sexual Exploitation

As a teenager, Joel ran away from a small, rural town in Michigan and eventually made his way to Chicago. At 21, he was addicted to crack cocaine and heroin. Fifty-seven arrests and six prostitution-related convictions later, Joel found himself off the streets and in prison.

It was difficult to see Joel as a victim at this point, but there was another side to his story. And legal aid would play a critical role in writing a new chapter.

Joel’s mom was murdered when he was three. He was sent to live with his mom’s family in Michigan, where he faced regular physical and sexual abuse. Growing up gay in an unwelcoming community only brought further abuse. He ran away from home as a teenager, ending up in Chicago in search of acceptance. Instead, he was introduced to crack cocaine and heroin by a pimp as a means to lead him into sex trafficking, and he suffered even more unimaginable abuse.

Somehow, during his time in prison, Joel found the strength and resilience to turn his life around against all the odds life had stacked against him. He got a GED degree, went to college, and worked his way up to a doctoral degree. But then, when he applied to get his professional license to take the next steps in his amazing revival, he ran into a legal brick wall due to his past contacts with the criminal justice system.

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December 16, 2015

I need legal aid, too

I need legal aid, too.

But not in the traditional sense. I am fortunate enough to have a home, a job, and good health. I need legal aid so that the community I live in functions better.

Shortly after I started at the CBF, I was tasked with penning the Campaign in Action blog series. The idea was simple: profile a legal aid organization supported through the CBF’s Investing in Justice Campaign, and give an overview of their legal aid services.

My background, I should note, is not in law, but journalism. I had never paid much attention to the legal system before, let alone legal aid.

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November 19, 2015

A Network of Help for Considerable South Suburban Need

Ford Heights, located in southern Cook County, was once pegged as America’s poorest suburb. Three of its neighboring towns now claim the highest suburban poverty rates in Illinois: Harvey, Robbins, and Chicago Heights, all of which fall within the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court’s Sixth Municipal District in Markham.

Markham is a busy courthouse with a large unmet need, and its compact space enhances that challenge. In fact, it is also the only district in Cook County that has additional court call locations in 12 village halls and police departments. For people without a lawyer to guide them through the process, it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle.

Your support of the CBF Investing in Justice Campaign has helped build a network of court-based services in Markham that provide legal assistance to thousands in need for evictions, collections, and other matters.

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October 20, 2015

Bringing Justice to a Flawed System

We all have an obligation to treat other human beings as we want to be treated. Because someone made a mistake does not mean we should abandon them.

In a few wise words, Brian Nelson of Uptown People’s Law Center (UPLC) paraphrases the mission of the organization’s Pro Bono Prisoners Civil Rights Project, one of the many outstanding programs you are supporting through the Investing in Justice Campaign.

Hundreds of letters from inmates at surrounding prisons come across Brian’s desk every week many of them coming from partner law firms and organizations that receive these letters and forward them to UPLC. Every letter gets read, and every inmate gets a response. Many letters contain descriptions of human rights violations, such as overlooking inmate violence or letting injuries go untreated.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy for inmates to report abuse.

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September 17, 2015

Fighting for Renters’ Rights

Chicago has seen its highest percentage of renters in decades. Now the majority of Chicago residents, renters are often the victims of housing injustices, especially low-income renters.  While homeowners facing foreclosure have policies and laws in place to help ease their losses, there has been a gap for renters living in foreclosed buildings. They are […]

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August 18, 2015

Doing it for the Kids: The Children’s Initiative Speaks Up

Kids who find themselves in the custody of the government aren’t able to speak up for increased safety, better trained staff, or a reorganization of the system. That helps explain why, for many years, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services was considered one of the worst child welfare programs in the nation. Its […]

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July 23, 2015

Serving Seniors Where They Live

More than 40 million people in the U.S. are over the age of 65 today, and that number is expected to double by 2030. Many of these seniors are living on fixed incomes and struggle with legal issues related to caregiving, finances, their homes, and end-of-life planning. As they age, the accessibility of legal services can become as large a barrier to receiving help as affordability.

The Center for Disability and Elder Law (CDEL), one of the organizations you are supporting through the Investing in Justice Campaign, focuses on serving low-income elderly and disabled people in the Chicago area and has promising initiatives in place to better serve this population.

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June 24, 2015

Doctor’s Advice: Legal Aid

Putting doctors, hospitals and lawyers together may not sound like a recipe for improving health outcomes. But the Chicago Medical-Legal Partnership for Children (CMLPC) at the Legal Council For Health Justice is providing a thriving example of the great potential of these models and is one of the many great programs you are making possible through your support of the Investing in Justice Campaign. CMLPC’s focus is on serving low-income families at participating pediatric hospital and medical center sites to address legal issues impacting health outcomes, such as public benefits, special education, housing, immigration, guardianship and more.

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May 27, 2015

When Victims Become the Accused

For years, the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) was inadvertently setting a trap for parents who were victims of domestic violence. The scenario: a mother reports abuse for the sake of her family’s safety; in turn, rather than assisting with supportive services, DCFS makes a finding of neglect by the mother.

Under a vague environment injurious clause, DCFS similarly found thousands of domestic violence victims were accountable for neglect of their children. Fortunately, there was someone fighting for their rights: The Family Defense Center, one of the many great organizations you are supporting through the Investing in Justice Campaign.

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April 20, 2015

When Every Case is an Emergency

Startling statistics have made their way to headlines and stirred a national conversation on the topic of domestic violence, and they indicate that abusive partners don’t discriminate. A woman is beaten every nine seconds in the U.S. Men and transgender individuals often are victims as well. Locally, the Chicago Police Department handled 80,935 domestic-related calls […]

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