Our fundamental program is our Clean Slate Program. It is the foundation for NBLC projects. The Clean Slate Program uses strategic legal and policy tools to reduce involvement in the criminal justice system and remove barriers to employment and civic participation for people with criminal records.
Our client intake procedure consists of a criminal history evaluation and criminogenic needs assessment. Evaluation of the criminal history allows us to determine our legal advocacy strategy. The criminogenic needs assessment addresses the characteristics, traits, problems, or issues that directly relate to the client’s likelihood to re-offend. The needs assessment provides insight into the client’s “Wellness.” The concept of “Wellness” consists of five dimensions: physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual. In order to be considered “well,” it is imperative that these dimensions be in balance.
Our experience has shown us that when one of these dimensions is out of balance, the whole person is out of balance and the likelihood of recidivist behavior is increased. We address the concept of “Wellness” through partnerships and collaboration with other social service organizations to address the out of balance dimension. These partnerships are critical for the client’s success.
Our Clean Slate Program serves three segments of the community: 1) the full fee client, at a rate lower than the private sector; 2) the low to moderate income client, on a sliding fee scale; and 3) the client with little to no means, on a pro bono basis through funded NBLC projects.
NBLC believes that community outreach is essential to providing equal access to justice and quality, independent legal advocacy. Through our projects, we are able to perform community outreach to those at-risk of re-entering the criminal justice system. Our outreach projects serve the most vulnerable in our community: the homeless, the undocumented/non-U.S. citizen, those suffering from addiction and mental health disorders and those that are denied equal access to quality independent legal advocacy due to inability to pay legal fees.
The homeless are some of the most vulnerable members of our society. They are more susceptible to violence and health problems than those with housing. In addition, they are often marginalized by the justice system and society. More often than not, the homeless have been involved in the criminal justice system, primarily for lifestyle crimes such as unlawful lodging, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and theft of basic necessities of life. Addressing the issue of homelessness is complicated and requires collaboration and effort between the community, the justice system, law enforcement, social service agencies and mental health and substance abuse professionals.
The Immigrant Project addresses the post-conviction needs of our immigrant community. Those without U.S citizenship suffer the harshest sanction for involvement in the criminal justice system, removal from their families and a country that promised a better and safer life. For noncitizens, vacating an unconstitutional conviction and/or reducing felony convictions to misdemeanor convictions can be a powerful way to eliminate certain grounds of deportability, or open up eligibility for immigration status or immigration benefits.
NBLC will also provide legal advocacy to the immigrant community through “Know Your Rights” clinics. These clinics are educational and informative and prepare the undocumented for encounters with local and federal law enforcement agencies.
Marin Pro Bono Network
Formed in 2017, the Marin Pro Bono Network matches pro bono lawyers with low-income Marin County Residents in need of legal relief. The Network was founded by Canal Alliance and Legal Aid of Marin with the support of Marin Community Foundation and One Justice.
On the average, 7 out of 10 of Marin County’s poorest residents experiencing a legal problem do not receive individualized legal assistance. NBLC is developing this outreach project to bring quality, independent socio-legal clean slate advocacy to those who need it most.
Mental Health Project
The Mental Health Project is being developed to address the criminogenic needs of those with mental health issues. People who are experiencing a mental health crisis are more likely to encounter police than get medical help, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. As a result, 64 percent of jail inmates have a mental health problem, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
While there is a high prevalence of mental health problems among prison and jail inmates, only about 1 in 3 state prisoners and 1 in 6 jail inmates received treatment in custody. And, according to the National Institute of Corrections, prison and jail inmates who have physical health, mental health and substance abuse conditions have a harder time reintegrating after release than those without.
NBLC’s mental health project will help those previously involved in the criminal justice system clean up their criminal records and reintegrate after release. In turn, they will live a more independent, secure, crime free and satisfying life through the enforcement of their legal rights and the advancement of their social and economic well-being.
Substance Abuse Project
The Substance Abuse Project addresses the criminogenic needs of those with substance abuse issues. The use of alcohol and drugs can negatively affect all aspects of a person’s life, impact their family, friends and community, and place an enormous burden on American society. One of the most significant areas of risk with the use of alcohol and drugs is the connection between alcohol, drugs and crime.
Alcohol and drugs are implicated in an estimated 80% of offenses leading to incarceration in the United States such as domestic violence, driving while intoxicated, property offenses, drug offenses, and public-order offenses.
It is NBLC’s belief that recovery cannot be done alone. Having a good support system in sobriety is the key to long term success. A solid support system offers the best alternative for interrupting the criminal justice cycle for offenders with drug and alcohol problems. NBLC’s partnership with other agencies and client outreach will help provide a much needed safety net for those who struggle to maintain sobriety while giving them hope that there is a way out of criminal behavior and stigma.