We often talk about “access to justice,” which implies that legal aid clients are victims of injustice. Legal aid clients are victims of many kinds of injustices – domestic violence, unscrupulous landlords or employers, scammers and hucksters. And one of the most egregious forms of injustice is human trafficking, where men, women, and even young children are coerced or tricked into forced prostitution or labor. (See below for information on Human Trafficking Awareness Month.)
Others with legal needs, however, are not facing injustice, but rather are victims of their own mistakes and bad life choices. In those cases, what they need is not justice, but mercy
For instance, many clients face legal problems resulting from drug or alcohol abuse. In their desperation, they lose their jobs and end up evicted from their homes, or they commit crimes to feed their addiction. Clients of the CLS Legal Aid Clinic at the Gospel Rescue Mission in Tucson, Arizona, are usually homeless and battling addiction. In California, residents at Adult & Teen Challenge recovery programs come to 3R Ministries legal clinic for help to overcome the consequences of their life mistakes.
For many clients, the criminal justice system is so daunting they feel forever trapped. But the beauty of being in these treatment programs is that judges know they are striving to turn their lives around. So while the treatment programs help the clients overcome their addictions, the attorneys help them whittle down long lists of arrest warrants and thousands of dollars in court fines and fees. The skilled and caring attorneys work with the courts to reduce probation time, create payment plans, and use community service to work off debts.
Most importantly, clients in these faith-based recovery programs and Christian Legal Aid clinics have another benefit. They are shown the love of Christ, who has the power to transform their lives from the inside out. They receive not only help, but hope. Many of them come out drug-free, debt-free, and freed from the wages of sin.
Director, CLS Law School Fellows
Law Student Ministries Coordinator