Welcome to the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
The Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) is a statewide nonprofit poverty law and policy center. Its mission is to advance economic, racial and social justice through legal action, policy advocacy, coalition building, and community outreach. MLRI specializes in large-scale legal initiatives and systemic reforms that address the root causes of poverty, remove barriers to opportunity, promote economic stability and create a path to self-sufficiency for low-income individuals and families. For 45 years, MLRI has been the backbone of the Massachusetts civil legal aid system and is considered one of the premier statewide impact advocacy and poverty law support centers in the country.
MLRI Releases Preliminary Analysis of Governor's Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Proposal
On January 22, 2014, Governor Patrick released his budget proposal for fiscal year 2015 (FY 15), which is referred to as House 2. MLRI offers this preliminary analysis of selected budget topics impacting low-income residents of the Commonwealth, including cash and nutrition assistance, child care, child welfare, health care, homelessness services and housing items.
Download MLRI's summary of the Governor's Proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2015
MLRI Establishes Ernest “Tony” Winsor Fund for Justice
A Lasting Tribute to a Visionary Public Interest Lawyer & Champion of Justice
Ernest “Tony” Winsor was hired as an attorney at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute on November 4, 1970. He passed away peacefully on November 4, 2013. Over the course of his 39 years at MLRI, he left an indelible imprint on the legal and social justice communities. Tony’s intrepid and brilliant advocacy impacted countless people. In addition, Tony both inspired and mentored hundreds of legal services lawyers and public interest advocates who carry on the anti-poverty and social justice work so important to him.
To honor and continue Tony’s legacy and lifetime of work on behalf of low-income, vulnerable and disadvantaged people and communities, and to recognize his unwavering commitment to social justice, MLRI has established a fund in his name.
Donations and multi-year pledges to the Ernest “Tony” Winsor Fund for Justice will be used to support MLRI advocacy initiatives that further its mission to advance economic, racial and social justice for low-income and underserved individuals, families and communities, including:
- to further MLRI’s efforts to reform barriers to justice that deny low-income people opportunities to make a better life for themselves and their families;
- to promote MLRI initiatives that improve the delivery of civil legal aid and the administration of justice to those most in need;
- to support MLRI in developing innovative projects that address structural racism and intergenerational poverty;
- to support endeavors that address economic and societal inequalities resulting from race, gender, disability, ethnicity, national origin, age, sexual preference and/or socioeconomic class;
- to support MLRI’s activities that mentor and train the future generation of public interest lawyers and advocates who will carry on the legacy of Tony Winsor.
Income and principal of this Fund will be used to support the projects, activities and work in furtherance of this mission.
For information about MLRI’s Ernest “Tony” Winsor Fund for Justice, download the brochure. To make a donation or pledge, or to serve on the Winsor Fund Committee please contact MLRI’s Executive Director, Georgia Katsoulomitis, , 617-357-0700 x314.
Rap-ups of a Retired Reformer
Hot off the Press! New book describes how legal services advocates transformed laws for poor people in Massachusetts
For 42 years, from 1969 to his retirement in 2010, Allan Rodgers served as the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute. He led and participated in a legal revolution for poor people--a revolution that was led by poor people and by their legal services advocates and allies. In his newly-released book, "RAP-UPs of a Retired Reformer: Stories About how Legal Services Advocates Transformed the Laws for Poor People in Massachusetts," Allan provides a fascinating insight on how MLRI and its allies succeeded in making significant and long lasting changes in laws, policies and practices that affected low income people, families and communities. Written from a legal services leader who was on the frontlines and in the trenches in the War on Poverty, the stories in this book describe the legal and policy strategies, tactics, players and campaigns that improved the lives of millions of people in the Commonwealth. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in poverty law and policy.
Download the PDF file or get the eBook for your Kindle, Android, or i-device.
Find out how.
Rap-ups of a Retired Reformer epub for Android or i-devices
Rap-ups of a Retired Reformer for Kindle
MLRI Report on Family Homelessness Crisis
In September 2012, Massachusetts imposed new restrictions on eligibility to emergency shelter for homeless families with children. On April 9, 2013 MLRI released a report, "Out in the Cold: Homeless Children in Crisis in Massachusetts." This report highlights the adverse impacts of these new regulations—including, e.g., forcing homeless children to stay in places not meant for human habitation, shifting cost burdens to the Commonwealth’s health care system, and forcing vulnerable families to resort to unsafe and destabilizing irregular housing practices—and makes recommendations to fix the most urgent problems. Download and read the report:
MLRI's Rebuttal to Press Reports of SNAP/Food Stamp Waste
Recent news reports suggest ongoing waste of taxpayer dollars and mismanagement by DTA of the SNAP (food stamps) program, including a $27M overpayment of federal funds. There was NO fraud and NO fault on the part of SNAP recipients involved. All of the Massachusetts SNAP households played by the rules. They timely reported changes in advance of their next recertification period. USDA have found NO fault on the part of Massachusetts SNAP recipients in determining this overpayment. Here's what you need to know.
MLRI, its Legal Services Partners and Community Allies Fight to Protect Homeless Families
Effective August 6, 2012, the Massachusetts Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD) implemented new regulations that deny the vast majority of homeless families with children access to emergency shelter through the Emergency Assistance program. Public hearings on the new regulations were held by DHCD in October 2012. Homeless families, legislators, legal services advocates from programs across the state, medical doctors and nurses, domestic violence advocates, social workers, and many others provided compelling and powerful testimony that focused on the need to preserve the emergency shelter safety net to protect homeless families and children. In addition, seventy organizations around the Commonwealth signed a letter urging Governor Patrick, Senate and House leadership to modify the new regulations and restore access to emergency shelter for vulnerable children at "imminent risk of staying in places not meant for human habitation."
Thanks to advocacy by MLRI and its partners in 2012 and 2013, many important changes were made to the initial DHCD regulations. But one year after the new regulations were implemented, too many homeless families and children are still falling through the cracks, left with no safe place to stay.
Watch this video that explains the problem.
MLRI Awarded HomeCorps Grant for Homelessness Prevention Program
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute received a Crisis Response Innovation Grant from the Attorney General's office to create an innovative Homelessness Prevention Program for the purpose of preventing evictions and maintaining possession for tenants at high risk for homelessness. MLRI will work with the Massachusetts Justice Project, Community Legal Aid, MetroWest Legal Services and a special advisory panel. The program's overall goal is to defend against unnecessary evictions and provide other legal assistance that will help low income clients avoid homelessness. Lawyers in the field will represent targeted households in eviction proceedings with the goal of preserving tenancies and obtaining necessary repairs and damages, or leveraging sufficient resources to allow tenants to move and find other suitable housing. This project will build on the success achieved by two pilot projects of the Boston Bar Association's Task Force on the Civil Right to Counsel that used a "targeted representation" model to identify a special subset of low income tenants who were at risk of losing their apartments through eviction despite their legal rights. For more information, view the Attorney General's press release.
MLRI Highlighted in ABA Magazine
MLRI was featured in Dialogue, the national magazine of the American Bar Association's Division for Legal Services. The piece, "Tough Advocacy for Tough Times," highlights MLRI's multi-forum advocacy and strategies for systemic reform, using as an example its work to preserve affordable housing units in two high-profile cases.