NCAJ uses data, research and policy analysis to expose how the justice system fails to stand up for equal justice- and all too often, functions as a source of oppression.


We identify the best policy solutions to complex problems, and assess how states measure up against those benchmarks. Our work is rooted in the principle that all people should enjoy access to justice, which we describe as the meaningful opportunity to be heard, secure one’s rights and obtain the law’s protection.

The United States is in the grips of an access to justice crisis that spans the civil-criminal divide. In civil cases, 80% of the legal needs of the poor are unmet. In criminal cases, people confront abusive laws and disproportionate punishments with limited help. At NCAJ, we are working to establish and preserve the real and meaningful opportunity for every person to be heard and to secure his or her rights-- in civil and criminal cases alike.

With that framing, we strive to cut across the false divisions that tend to isolate the civil and criminal justice reform movements from one another. We emphasize that meaningful access to justice requires deep reforms that speak to both sides of the docket. The barriers that block people from accessing justice in civil cases where their homes, their savings, or their families are at risk, are often inextricably bound up with the injustices people confronting a criminal charge must face. Too often, some of the most significant problems and badly needed reforms remain out of the limelight of mainstream policy discourse. Our work helps change that. We emphasize that meaningful access to justice requires deep reforms that speak to both sides of the docket. 

In practical terms, our work focuses on areas where we are equipped to add unique value and push for change in partnership with others. Our flagship project is the Justice Index, an empirical resource that illuminates the performance of all 50 states in relation to one other on a matrix of pragmatic, baseline policies we have determined in consultation with experts to be essential to ensuring access to justice. The Index helps create momentum for reform and engender healthy competition among states. 

We are working to bring rigorous, principled research and analysis to the task of advancing progress toward a fairer justice system, and in so doing, to achieve a better society.

NCAJ's David Udell talks about America's Access to Justice crisis with Bob Herbert of the New York Times.
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