Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC)
1000 Preston Avenue, Suite A
Charlottesville, VA 22903
|Primary Contact||Tim Wallace|
|Executive Director||Angela Ciofi|
|Primary Focus Area||Violence Prevention/Legal Justice|
The Legal Aid Justice Center partners with communities and clients to achieve justice by dismantling systems that create and perpetuate poverty. Justice means racial justice, social justice, and economic justice.
Founded in 1967, LAJC provides services in four program areas: Civil Rights & Racial Justice, Economic Justice, Youth Justice, and Immigrant Advocacy.
Operating out of four physical offices in Charlottesville, Richmond, Petersburg, and Falls Church, LAJC boldly tackles issues of systemic injustice and aims to raise public and policymaker awareness of some of the most pressing challenges facing low-income Virginia residents.
For more information, visit www.justice4all.org.
|Title:||Civil Rights & Racial Justice Program|
|Description:||The Civil Rights & Racial Justice Program (CRRJ) works to end the criminalization of poverty in Virginia by exposing and addressing criminal legal system policies that target people because of poverty and race. Through a mix of community organizing, local and statewide policy advocacy, and litigation, our program intervenes at every point in the criminal legal system. Our campaigns range from initial law enforcement contact in the community, through the courts, to individuals’ confinement in Virginia’s jails and prisons, and finally to their reentry into the community.|
|Examples of Program Success:||Fighting the Criminalization of Poverty:|
Won a critical victory in a five-year battle to end the draconian Virginia law that automatically suspends the driver’s licenses of people too poor to pay their court fees. Being able to drive legally will restore dignity to and transform the lives of up to one million people who were stuck in an endless spiral of debt, unemployment, and incarceration for driving illegally.
|Title:||Economic Justice Program|
|Description:||The Economic Justice Program provides assistance to individuals and families in Central Virginia who face legal dilemmas related to housing, public benefits, employment, healthcare, consumer protection, or the rights of the elderly, and engages in systematic advocacy with and on behalf of low-income people in these issue areas. In addition to assisting individuals with specific problems, we conduct outreach and provide education to both community members and social service workers in order to increase community capacity for solving these problems. We help people learn about their legal rights and responsibilities and supply the information they need to receive fair treatment. We also work with other service organizations and collaborate with private attorneys, law schools and social service agencies.|
|Examples of Program Success:||Making it Less Expensive to be Poor:|
Settled litigation against Richmond’s Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA) over RRHA’s practice of systematically overcharging residents for utilities. The settlement paid current residents over $1M and implemented a more reasonable utility allowance going forward.
|Title:||Youth Justice Program|
|Description:||LAJC’s Youth Justice Program envisions a Virginia where all young people have access to high-quality public education, evidence-based community supports, mental health services, and a truly restorative youth justice system. We partner with youth, their families, and their communities to achieve racial justice, social justice, and economic justice for all young people by dismantling systems that create and perpetuate poverty. Our strategies include individual legal representation for youth with unmet needs in the education, foster care, and juvenile justice systems, impact litigation, community education and organizing, and statewide policy advocacy. We promote public policies and system reforms that keep young people in school, out of the youth justice system, and living successfully in their communities.|
|Examples of Program Success:||Building Communities where all Children Thrive.|
Advocated for and helped ensure two major pieces of school discipline reform that together reduce the length of long-term suspensions and restrict the use of suspension for elementary school children. Helped secure the closure of one of Virginia’s remaining two juvenile prisons, while ensuring that the resulting gets reinvested in a continuum of services for justice-involved youth and their families.
|Title:||Immigrant Advocacy Program|
|Description:||Our Immigrant Advocacy program supports low-income immigrants in their efforts to find justice and fair treatment. In addition to representing clients with individual legal issues, we promote systemic reforms to reduce the abuse and exploitation of immigrants and advocate for state and local policies that promote integration and protect immigrants from aggressive immigration enforcement. We represent low-wage immigrants in legal proceedings, counsel them about their rights and help them take steps to empower themselves and prepare for the worst, recover unpaid wages they have earned, combat workplace and housing discrimination, and fight for their civil rights. We represent immigrants across Virginia, from the tomato fields of the Eastern Shore to restaurant kitchens in Charlottesville to luxury apartment construction sites in Arlington. Our work aims to end the mass detention and deportation of immigrants, with a special focus on child refugees fleeing violence and individuals and communities targeted for enforcement by overzealous federal immigration agents. Beginning in 2017, we have expanded our efforts to serve the thousands of immigrant farmworkers living in isolated areas throughout Virginia. We meet workers at the labor camps, mobile home parks, and motels where those who pick, pack, and process Virginia’s crops reside, sometimes for only a few months each year. The degraded living and working conditions of many farmworkers would offend those who enjoy the food they produce through their toil. Physical isolation, language barriers, and insecure immigration status make farmworkers particularly vulnerable to exploitation, through wage theft, labor trafficking, and other offenses.|
|Examples of Program Success:||Protecting Immigrants’ Lives and Livelihoods:|
We met the family separation crisis head-on: helping 20 NoVA-bound parents to reunite with their children and filing one of a trio of lawsuits nationwide that won a second chance to apply for asylum for over 400 parent survivors of family separation. We are currently challenging the prolonged detention of refugee children and deportation of family members who come forward to sponsor them out of detention.