Economic justice

Economic justice | Southern Poverty Law Center


They fall victim to predatory lenders who trap them in a cycle of debt and deprive them and their communities of meager resources.

They are denied access to the social safety net by politicians who stigmatize low income workers and blame them for the problems in our country.

They are exploited and imprisoned by local governments that target impoverished communities for revenue-generating traffic fines – and by profiteering companies that charge exorbitant and unfair fees for privatized and court-ordered ‘services’, like the plans. payment or probation supervision.

For more than 40 years, we have represented the most vulnerable people in society – often those living in poverty and who cannot afford to take legal action against the injustices they face. Today, our economic justice project fights against deeply rooted policies and practices that exploit or punish the poor simply because of their economic status. Our work has a national scope but mainly focuses on the Deep South.

We focus on the following priorities:

  • Reform policies that trap the poor in a cycle of court debt.
    We are closing modern-day debtor prisons in the Deep South. We are stopping the use of “offender funded” services such as private “probation” companies that use the power of the justice system to extort payments from the poor. We also pledge to end the collateral consequences of fines and court costs, such as driver’s license suspensions, which can force people to choose between driving with a suspended license and losing their jobs. We are working to reform surety systems that discriminate against the poor and to eradicate the abusive practices of surety companies. We also pledge to end the abuse of confiscation of civilian assets, a practice that allows law enforcement to seize property but is too often motivated by profit rather than public safety.
  • Protect the safety net for the poor.
    We ensure that the poor are not denied access to the social safety net. In Tennessee, for example, we filed a complaint when authorities put up barriers to prevent many residents from obtaining medical coverage under the state’s Medicaid program. Our lawsuit led to a preliminary injunction which has helped thousands of people. More recently, we filed a lawsuit in Kentucky to fight the state’s efforts to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients – demands that only serve to deny service to those who have it. most needed.
  • Protect low-income consumers from predatory practices.
    We’re helping lead the charge to protect consumers from payday lenders and securities lenders who prey on low-income communities and trap the poor in a cycle of debt. And we’re educating the public and supporting a national effort to create strong consumer safeguards to curb this predatory industry. We also target abusive wage garnishment practices and fight the efforts of private companies to exploit the criminal justice system for their own benefit.