The Legal Connector


Vol. 2, No. 10                                                                          November 2015

From Ellie's Desk
 
Dear Reader:
 
I write this just after returning from conducting our annual "I Didn't Know That!" seminar on relatively unknown legal resources; and yes, I'm still buzzing from a morning of excellent speakers who shared about programs that increase legal system access. I learned some new things--like that HOME Line has attorneys who will give same day legal advice via email--that will benefit many in legal need.
 
Resonating in particular was a presentation by Brad Colbert from Legal Assistance to Minnesota Prisoners (LAMP), which provides civil legal representation for those incarcerated in Minnesota's prison system. Brad was exceedingly honest about the lack of legal resources for Minnesota's 10,000 prisoners--LAMP is the only organized program in the state that represents prisoners in civil matters. That's down from five organizations doing such work twenty years ago. As a result, LAMP turns away 15 requests for legal help for every request that it takes.
 
This isn't at all good, especially for Minnesota, where pro bono service is highly valued.
 
The Minnesota State Law Library has launched a "Law Library Service to Prisoners" (see below), yet this doesn't provide legal advice or representation. Is there anyone/organization willing to step up and buttress the legal representation of prisoners work that LAMP is undertaking?
 
I have to think that we can collectively do better, especially since society is slowly recognizing that institutional racism and marginalization have created a whole class of people without a voice or hope. (See a phenomenal article by Ta-Nehisi Coates, " The Age of Mass Incarceration," in the October issue of Atlantic Magazine)
 
Call for Justice, LLC is here to help. Let us know how!
   
ellie
 
Goings On:
Here are some happenings within the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota legal and social services landscapes.
Some of What's In This Issue:

© Call for Justice, LLC. Note: The Legal Connector seeks to better inform the Minnesota nonprofit legal and social services communities of relevant developments that might impact their work in helping low-income Minnesotans connect with legal services. This publication may be reproduced and used for noncommercial, personal and education use only. All other rights reserved. To the extent opinions are expressed in the TLC, they are solely opinions of Call for Justice, LLC. In the event we get something wrong or incorrect, let us know and we'll make the appropriate correction. As much as we hate to admit it, we're not perfect.
1. Options on Sorting Out Legal Matters

Help finding out what kind of legal need a client has  

We often hear that social service providers can't begin to figure out what kind of legal matter a client has, let alone being able to refer that client to the right legal provider. Our "I Didn't Know That!" seminar reminded that there are at least two places that can help with this problem. LawHelpMN.org has a chat feature that makes it possible to get real time answers on the type/kind of legal matter at issue. (And, it would be possible for a social worker/case manager to sit with the client while utilizing the chat feature.) Additionally, staff at the Self-Help Center in the Hennepin County Government Center (downtown Minneapolis) will help persons in need figure out the type of legal matter they're facing. Good things to know!

2. Online Legal Advice at HOME Line
Same day response time
HOME Line, the legal resource for tenants and some in-residence landlords, offers both telephonic and online legal advice. There is no income limit for HOME Line services, either; it also serves the entire state of Minnesota. HOME Line can be contacted at 621-728-5767 or 1-866-866-3546 (most likely a caller will have to leave a message but someone will call back within the business day); or for online, go to their email an attorney feature. Note: HOME Line doesn't usually provide in-person/court representation.

3. State Court Law Library Prisoner Service
Helping prisoners in need
The Minnesota State Law Library employs three professional librarians to provide information to inmates under Department of Corrections jurisdiction. Inmates may contact the Law Library Service to Prisoners via phone, mail or in person (librarians visit each prison monthly and inmates may sign up for a consult with a librarian). While LLSP law librarians don't provide legal advice, the can provide information about case law, court rules, legal forms and secondary authority. This is a widely used service, too--as of January 2014, the LLSP had served 9786 inmates through a total of 87 prison visits; by that date, it had processed 42,683 inmate requests for information. Wow! To reach the LLSP prisoners can call 651-296-2775 or send a letter to Minnesota State Law Library Room G25, Minnesota Judicial Center
25 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155.


4. Video Visitation at the DOC
Now available at most facilities
Video visitation is now available at most facilities within the MN Department of Corrections. This allows people to visit an offender from any location with a computer that has a camera.
While the video system does cost a fee for the visitor, this is a real improvement in helping prisoners gain access to resources and people. 

Video visitation is a privilege and some offenders are not eligible for video visits because of current visiting restrictions or disciplinary status. For more information visit the Video Visitation page of the MN DOC's website.
 

5. Off to a Good Start!
HOMES Court reports first year's results and a savings of $175K
In February 2014, the 4th Judicial District launched the HOMES Court--Housing Outreach for Minneapolitans Establishing Stability--with the purpose to reduce homelessness and recidivism by offering homeless offenders an opportunity to work with court community partners to achieve stable housing. Eligible participants must have a case manager who is willing to sponsor them in HOMES Court. The court works with approximately 20 offenders on each calendar and meets twice a month. A total of 52 offenders were served in 2014, with the majority being male and people of color.

A first year Assessment of the program showed that the average number of arrests for program participants declined 60 percent; the number of jail days declined 43 percent. Additionally, county contracted shelter and use of county-paid detox each declined by 54 percent. The estimated savings to the county as a result was $175,728.

According to the Assessment, "(p)articipants have said that they are more willing to show up and participate in the process than they might otherwise be because they are treated with respect at HOMES Court and because they believe the court is trying to work with them to address underlying problems."
This is a wonderful example of the system being responsive to the needs of humans who repeatedly offend by engaging in basic survival-type crimes. It's proof that adding greater imagination and collaboration as elements can produce phenomenal results. C4J tips its hat to Judge Bruce Peterson and his team for making HOMES Court a success in its first year of operation!

People, Places & Things
News about personnel shifts, events, and other items of interest.
C4J Turns 4! 
December 1 marks the 4th anniversary of the day that Call for Justice began operations. Help us to celebrate this event at our Birthday Party on December 2 at Gluek's Restaurant & Bar from 5-7:30. We'll be serving up some heavy appetizers, drinks (cash bar-sorry!), and fellowship. Please join us to make this a rockin' party! For the official fundraising page for #C4JX4 click here! RSVP for the party by emailing Kristin at kristin.giant@callforjustice.org.

HCBA Pro Bono Publico Nominations Open


The Hennepin County Bar Association gives three pro bono awards annually to recognize individuals for their commitment to legal services. Through the giving of these awards the association seeks not only to honor specific individuals but to encourage volunteerism and service by others in the broad arena of legal services seeking to serve an often-documented, unmet need.

The Distinguished Service Award recognizes an individual for career-long work on behalf of the community and the two Excellence Awards recognize current or recent excellence in service by individuals from the private sector and from the public/government/judicial sector.

Nominations for the 2016 Awards are due Tuesday, December 1, 2015. Awards will be presented at the 2016 Bar Benefit. Click here for the nominations page.

In Closing
If you have an announcement or legal update that you'd like to submit for possible inclusion in our October issue, please contact Program Manager Kristin Giant at kristin.giant@callforjustice.org by October 4. We look forward to updating you again in the early Fall! 

Sincerely,

Ellen (Ellie) Krug
Executive Director
ellen.krug@callforjustice.org
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