How can a father in prison avoid accumulating thousands of dollars in child support arrears that he can never hope to pay? How can a mother obtain a divorce that will protect her from an abusive partner after her release? Our civil legal program provides the answers to these and dozens of other issues that can be resolved by assisting inmates how to represent themselves pro se in uncontested legal matters.
ADI is the only provider of pro se services that enters the prisons throughout Maryland. We visit 13 prisons and jails in the state as well as Tuerk House, providing regularly schedule workshops for inmates (residents at Tuerk House) informing them about the services we provide and then offering assistance in filing for the many services we do offer. At these Civil Legal Workshops we explain a variety of services we offer, including pro se assistance for divorce, child support modification and requests for legal provider contacts. We receive many request for re-entry resources such as housing, medical care, and employment programs. We scheduled 83 workshops, attended by 1851 people in FY19. In FY19, 5,147 new cases were opened.
The majority of services we provide fall into one of the following categories:
Information on bankruptcy – 184
Credit Reports – 529
Educational Financial Aid – 534
Employment – 654
Health Care – 511
Housing – 742
Other Legal Providers - 307
Child Support Modifications
In FY2018 we closed 273 child support modification cases, compared to 373 in FY2018. Typically this number has gone down over the past few years.
Cases meeting the automatic suspension criteria is now about 27%, up from 22% in FY18. We anticipate we will continue to have clients who need this service. We anticipate Court Ordered Modifications will continue to decrease in future years. In "automatic" cases we do provide a letter for them to send to the Office of Child Support Enforcement requesting confirmation that their arrears are not accumulating.
ADI is the only provider in Maryland who offers these services to incarcerated individuals, and were it not for ADI, our clients would be denied access to the courts for these essential processes. If we calculate the average child support payment to be $50.00 per week (based on Department of Health and Human Services reports), we saved our clients $49,400 this year.
"Expungement (also called "expunction") is a court-ordered process in which the legal record of an arrest or a criminal conviction is "sealed," or erased in the eyes of the law. When a conviction is expunged, the process may also be referred to as "setting aside a criminal conviction." The availability of expungement, and the procedure for getting an arrest or conviction expunged, will vary according to the state or county in which the arrest or conviction occurred." https://www.criminal.findlaw.com/expungement/expungement-basics.html
In the case of the state of Maryland, recent legislative decisions have loosened the ability to receive an expungement for selected dispositions and convictions. This has made it possible for more expungements to occur. This has resulted in ADI's significant increase in this area of service to those in prison.
We assisted our clients in filing petitions for expungement in 1,994 venues representing 6,924 petitions during FY2019, up ~37% from FY2018. In the past couple years we have significantly increased our assistance with expungements. Why is this so important? When a person returns to their communities, charges that have not been expunged could prevent the person from obtaining a lease or gaining employment. Employment is a key to success upon returning from prison.
ADI has provided these valuable services for 40 years, thanks in very large part to the support of the Maryland Legal Services Corporation.