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DOJ Starts Offering Civil Legal Aid To Female Federal Prisoners

The U.S. Justice Department said that its Office for Access to Justice, Bureau of Prisons and National Institute of Corrections (NIC) are collaborating to launch a pilot program to provide civil legal services to incarcerated individuals in select (BOP) women’s facilities. At a DOJ Celebration of Second Chances event, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco highlighted this new initiative as a strategy to improve success upon reentry. Prisoners are a vulnerable population when it comes to unmet civil legal needs. The prompt resolution of civil legal issues – such as debt collection, access to benefits or child custody matters – can help support successful reentry and promote public safety, DOJ said. The department issued a report finding that access to legal assistance is a barrier for most people, and this civil justice gap widens for those who are incarcerated. The Civil Legal Services Pilot Program will seek to meet this need.

“When individuals leaving incarceration cannot access basic needs to pursue a successful future, we're not achieving the promises of justice,” said Director Rachel Rossi of the Office for Access to Justice. “Legal help can often ensure access to these foundational needs, like economic security." Federal prison director Colette Peters said the new program "will continue to support our gender responsive, and trauma informed focus, while addressing the additional barriers women also face.” The three agencies surveyed inmates to assess civil legal need. More than 50,000 responded, and the overwhelming majority said they would benefit from civil legal services. This pilot program will offer services on a limited scale – on particular issues in certain facilities – to evaluate the feasibility of expanding those services across all BOP facilities.


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