Member Spotlight] Legal Empowerment in Practice: Justice Center for Legal Aid
The Justice Center for Legal Aid strives to develop a national sustainable legal aid model tailored to local needs.
JCLA is committed to empowering and enabling all poor and vulnerable people in Jordan with a view to realize a society where everyone has equal access to the justice system. JCLA does this by implementing legal awareness programs; providing legal consultations, mediation and representation services in the areas of civil, criminal and family (including Sharia) law; and advocating for reform to the justice system.
Since 2008 JCLA has grown from one legal aid clinic in Amman to become the largest legal aid provider in Jordan, providing legal aid services at 24 clinics located across all 12 governorates, as set out in the aside illustration. Each month, JCLA assists approximately 375 beneficiaries through legal consultations, provides legal representation to approximately 150 beneficiaries across 200 cases, and reaches approximately 3600 vulnerable people through its awareness sessions.
In Jordan, there is no institutional mechanism to provide legal protection to the poor and vulnerable. Moreover, recent law amendments dictate that individuals must be provided with a lawyer, only in cases where sentences are ten years of imprisonment or higher, or the death penalty. However, the court system assigns lawyers to people inconsistently and not systematically.
As such, an individual’s access to justice is often determined by their ability to afford adequate legal representation. Vulnerable individuals that lack the financial means to seek legal assistance are forced to navigate the complexity of the judicial system on their own. When access to justice is quantified, the gap between those with means, and those without is significant. The Jordanian Department of Statistics estimates that around 47,000 people a year in Jordan, who in engage with the justice system, cannot afford a lawyer.
The repercussions of unequal access to justice will affect vulnerable individuals on a multiplicity of intersecting levels, often having a significantly negative flow-on impact on their economic, social, and health status. As such, JCLA works to provide access to justice services across a number of thematic interventions. These matters include, but are not limited to matters concerning; criminal law (including matters of assault, fraud, cyber-crimes, and theft), administrative law (including administrative detention, denationalization and deportation), civil law (documentation, labor claims, and tenancy issues), and family law (alimony, custody, and divorce).
JCLA was established to create pathways for lasting legal empowerment. JCLA began its journey believing that legal protection is necessary as justice must belong to all. JCLA strives to achieve its objectives, through three focused pillars: Prevention, Response, and Advocacy.
JCLA’s structure of service provision is built on best practices, conducting high-quality legal empowerment services in areas of Sharia, criminal, and civil courts. JCLA works closely with CBOs and civil society across over 100 partners in all 12 governorates through legal literacy and awareness campaigns. JCLA has, over the years, enhanced analysis of the justice system beyond equality of opportunity for poor and vulnerable individuals, and towards equality of outcomes. This was done by addressing the barriers faced by those trying to access the judicial system. JCLA advocated for access to justice as a basic human rights principle and an indispensable means towards conflict resolution. This included introducing procedures, guidelines, engaging in law reform, and informed research.
In the last decade, since its inception in 2008, the Justice Center for Legal Aid (JCLA) has positioned itself as not only a legal aid service- provider, but also, as the creator of a new discourse to approach the justice system in Jordan. Ten years of experience in ensuring the poor and vulnerable receive access to justice in Jordan has granted JCLA the ability to act as a window into the complex realities of those barred from accessing the justice system.
Until such a time that legal aid is institutionalized in Jordan, sustainability of JCLA’s service delivery is at the forefront of JCLA’s activities.
Specifically, JCLA’s sustainability approach is as follows;
Sustainability through Empowerment & Enablement - When engaging with vulnerable beneficiaries directly, JCLA enables legal empowerment through group awareness sessions and one-on-one legal counseling sessions. JCLA empowers them to access benefits they can enjoy (long) after the legal assistance was provided.
Financial sustainability - JCLA has known an upward financial trajectory, going from an annual budget below 100,000 USD to a current annual budget of more than 2 million USD. JCLA has developed long-term funding partnerships with donors with a view to establishing a funding pool that will ensure on-going and service delivery to all vulnerable people in Jordan.
Policy level sustainability - JCLA’s efforts to engage with, and build the capacity of, government bodies to create and maintain sustainable change.
Institutional sustainability - JCLA ensures ongoing enhancement of its organizational capacity through quality control mechanisms, a suit of internal policies and procedures and ongoing capacity building.
Partnership Sustainability - JCLA’s ability to grow and sustain its services to the poor and vulnerable is to a great extent due to adopting a collaborative approach to its service-delivery through;
Hosting partners: 13 of JCLA’s 15 clinics are hosted by community organizations located in poor and vulnerable communities Through partnerships, JCLA is able to provide its legal aid services to vulnerable beneficiaries in a safe, secure and approachable environment. JCLA’s hosted partners provide complementary services to ensure beneficiaries receive multi-sectoral services.
Referral partners & Strategic partners: JCLA also has over 100 partnerships with government ministries, NGO’s and CBOs.
As JCLA is a focused organization, which solely provides access to justice services, all funded projects fall under a three-fold programmatic approach; prevention, response & advocacy.
• With regard to prevention it is JCLA’s firm belief that while enhanced protection is a cure, prevention through awareness is fundamental. JCLA’s awareness sessions cover a number of thematic interventions, including but not limited to, issues concerning access to justice, labor rights, cyber-crimes, tenancy, personal status law, protection (SGBV, early marriage, bullying), documentation and fair trial standards. JCLA uses creative tools for its legal literacy campaigns that include awareness sessions, interactive theatre, social media campaigns, and public debates in order to reach out to a wider range of people. JCLA employs a number of awareness strategies to engage government institutions, local communities, men and school-aged boys, civil society and the media.
• As per response, JCLA provides its services (consultations, in-court representations, and mediation & accompaniment services). These services are conducted indiscriminately through JCLA’s legal consultants and community facilitators (paralegals) through its 15 legal clinics across all 12 governorates of Jordan.
• In reference to advocacy, for best impact, engagement with and building the capacity of key justice institutions and civil society is critical to ensure the sustainability of interventions. JCLA does this through conducting workshops, conferences, meetings, and capacity trainings for sector stakeholders on relevant issues.
Considering the comprehensive geographic, demographic and thematic coverage of JCLA legal services, it is uniquely placed to reach out to a very broad portion of Jordan’s most vulnerable communities, including refugees.
Legal Problems Do Not Occur In Static Isolation, But Are Cumulative; Marginalized and poverty-stricken individuals barred from legal justice will significantly face obstructions to other rights. These individuals who have been pushed into the margins of society often face a multiplicity of interlocking multifaceted problems. Most significant of which are unemployment, violence, low financial stability, poor housing, lack of access to education, and lack of access to health. Issues in unemployment, for example, have the increased propensity to develop into problems of debt, poor mental health, lack of access to education, health, or other basic services, deportation for refugees and migrants, and homelessness.
Partnerships Are The Heart Of The Service; Hosting partnerships allows JCLA to service its beneficiaries at their convenience, closer to their homes. It also allows the beneficiaries, especially women, to be able to visit a lawyer privately and avoid shaming from their communities. This assists beneficiaries in order to overcome their fear of judgment and social pressures and make the right decisions to change their lives in a safe and less stressful manner.
Access To Justice Is Access To Rights. It Is A Means To An End; The provision of legal aid services plays a pivotal role in the assurance that other rights are met. It is crucial to understand the connection of the accessibility to justice and the realization of other rights. Those unable to access the justice system will be unable to exercise existing rights, legal or non-legal.
Legal aid is a complimentary service that enhances poor and vulnerable people’s access to rights and services in general. Those who live on the periphery of society often suffer under complex social, economic problems that lead to their loss of basic rights. Access to legal aid is access to housing, education, health, economic rights, and child protection.
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