Celebrate Six Years of DJC!

Over the past 6 years, the Detroit Justice Center has held onto our foundational belief that we must remedy the impacts of mass incarceration to create truly just cities. With our three-pronged approach of defense, offense, and dreaming, DJC has offered direct services to community members, helped change legislation for wider imapct, and shifted narratives around divesting from the carceral system and investing in community care.

Back in 2018, during the inception of DJC, our Community Legal Advocates (CLA) team was launched to assist Detroit homeowners with appealing their property tax assessments in the highly overtaxed city. Since then the CLAs have been dedicated to democratizing the law and making it accessible to everyone, especially those most vulnerable to punishment from the legal system. Between the CLA’s and our attorneys, we have offered direct services including record expungement, legal defense against unjust landlords, assistance setting up co-ops and Community Land Trusts (CLTs), defense against water shut offs, and assisting Detroit homeowners with property tax assessment. 

At its inception, DJC worked closely with Namati, an international legal organization that has pioneered the use of community paralegals in 160 countries, to devise the community legal worker pilot which over time grew into our current CLA work. CLAs are formally trained and supervised by DJC’s legal staff and are prepared to help people navigate government systems. They have previously worked with groups like the Coalition to End Unconstitutional Tax Foreclosures and Detroit People’s Platform, focusing on issues of economic justice. DJC is the only organization in the U.S. currently using this model of CLAs and we look forward to training others in how to do this work.

For our sixth anniversary, our CLAs are heading to three Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to take DJC’s work on the road. They have partnered with universities in North Carolina (North Carolina Central University School of Law), Texas (Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law), and Washington DC (Howard University School of Law) to teach community members (non-lawyers) how to create processes to remove legal barriers in their reigons. These law schools have reached out to local partners to find the perfect candidates for this work. Participants will move through a curriculum designed by the CLAs and will be addressing legal processes that are particular to their localities.

We hope that you will join us in celebrating six years of DJC and the CLAs by supporting our work in whatever way you can. As we mature as an organization, we will continue to grow our practice and sew seeds of just cities beyond our beloved Detroit. We can’t do this work without our supporters, you sustain us and allow us to expand our work democratizing access to the law.