Rural Justice Collaborative to focus on research in 2022
Identifying research needs to better understand barriers to fair and equitable rural justice will be a focus of the Rural Justice Collaborative (RJC) in 2022.
Rural communities face unique challenges, such as legal deserts, that impact their ability to deliver fair and equitable justice, so NCSC is working with Rulo Strategies to create programs and initiatives that provide legal and other services to people in rural areas.
Developing a research agenda is one of several priorities outlined in a recently released status report that also highlights accomplishments from 2021.
“This is one of the most important things we’ll do this year -- establishing a research plan that is specific to justice-related outcomes in rural communities,” said Kristina Bryant, an NCSC principal court management consultant who is RJC's co-director. “This is unprecedented, and it will provide direction for all stakeholders.”
Other 2022 priorities include:
- Selecting new innovation sites and creating peer-to-peer learning opportunities through video, webinar and in-person trainings.
- Establishing a RJC Leadership Institute by building a network of well-connected leaders who are passionate about ensuring that people in rural areas receive necessary services.
- Further identifying needs and gaps in rural justice systems that will lead to enhanced services.
- Seeking out opportunities for RJC staffers and advisory board members to join regional and national work groups that share RJC’s goals.
In 2021, RJC identified nine innovation sites, stretching from South Carolina to Montana. These programs are designed to recruit lawyers to rural areas, and help people in need find lawyers, mediation services, substance abuse treatment and domestic abuse support, among other things. The project’s first fellow - who was chosen in partnership with the Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center - coordinated the selection of these sites.
The RJC also collaborated with a number of groups - including the Conference of Chief Justices/Conference of State Court Administrators’ Behavioral Health Committee, the National Judicial Task Force to Examine State Courts’ Response to Mental Illness’ education work group, the non-profit Housing Assistance Council and the Vera Institute of Justice – to support education and outreach.
Courts ‘need partners like NCSC,’ says top DOJ official
In a speech at the White House on Monday, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said courts “need partners like the National Center for State Courts” to help with eviction diversion efforts.
Gupta singled out NCSC’s Eviction Diversion Initiative, which will offer courts funding to hire staff and ensure the sustainability of eviction prevention programs. She also pointed to efforts in several states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, Indiana, New Mexico and New Hampshire, to educate landlords about options for non-payment of rent.
Massive amounts of federal money greatly curbed the number of evictions in 2020 and 2021, but now eviction diversion programs are needed to avoid evictions and keep tenants from becoming homeless, Gupta said.
The speech, delivered to law school students, was titled A Call to Action for Access to Justice.