Mississippi is ranked 47th in the nation for providing legal aid services to low income residents who cannot normally afford a lawyer. In an effort to improve that statistic, some are trying to add legal aid offices to church outreach programs.
"Churches have responded to their communities needs with tangible expressions of God's love."
Sitting in a mock courtroom on the Mississippi College School of Law campus in downtown Jackson, roughly 25 lawyers are listening to a video describing some of the legal problems facing low income residents. As part of an effort to provide legal aid to those individuals some lawyers are turning to churches. Bruce Strom is with the Gospel Justice Initiative -- a group advocating for more lawyer-church partnerships.
"Sometimes people don't always trust lawyers or the legal system or the government system, but they do have a friend who tells them 'you can trust my church," says Strom. "And they do. And it's a great place for them to go and they can share all of their needs as well as some very fundamental practical help."
Patricia Gandy is with Mission First Legal Aid Office -- a part of the Mississippi College School of Law. She says adding the lawyers would have a positive impact on the state's poorest residents.
"It'll be in their community, and be able to find out one, if they even have a legal issue," says Gandy. "It may not even be a legal issue; it may be something else going on that they can get referrals to social services or another ministry in that town of they can be connected with."
Currently in Mississippi, there is only one legal aid office for every 18-thousand residents.