Action Alert

For homeless youth, moving through the world without a state identification card can make an already impossible situation worse. Without state ID, they cannot: 

  • Apply for a job
  • Enroll in education programs
  • Obtain a library card
  • Pick up a package from the post office
  • Open any financial accounts
  • Enter certain government buildings
  • Interact with law enforcement
  • Access social services

But homeless youth face unique barriers that prevent them from easily obtaining state ID. 

Senate Bill 2568, An Act to provide identification to homeless youth and families, would eliminate the $25 fee required for Massachusetts IDs for applicants experiencing homelessness and reduce verification barriers. This bill is an important step to help homeless youth access potentially life-saving resources. 

But the legislative session ends at MIDNIGHT tonight.

This bill passed the Senate unanimously WEEKS AGO. It’s time for the House to do the same. Please join us in urging House Speaker Robert DeLeo and House Ways and Means Chair Jeffrey Sánchez to strongly support its passage in the House before the deadline TONIGHT!

Having a state ID is critical to ensure homeless youth are able to access the resources and opportunities they need, and today is the final day of formal sessions for this two-year legislative cycle. They need your call today more than ever. 

Call Speaker DeLeo and Chairman Jeffrey Sánchez to pass Senate Bill 2568 TODAY!

House Speaker Robert DeLeo

617-722-2500

House Ways and Means Chair Jeffrey Sánchez

617-722-2990

Sample Call Script: 

Speaker DeLeo/Chairman Sánchez, 

I am calling to urge you to support the passage of Senate Bill 2568, An Act to provide identification to homeless youth and families. This bill is an important step in ensuring homeless youth can more easily obtain Massachusetts state ID, which they need to access vital resources and opportunities. 

Without state ID, homeless youth cannot apply for a job, enroll in education programs, get a library card, or accomplish many other important everyday tasks. 

This bill will break down barriers that homeless youth face daily and make an important difference in their lives. I ask that you please support the passage of Senate Bill 2568 to ensure we continue to care for vulnerable youth in our state. 

Thank you for your ongoing support and advocacy on behalf of the homeless youth of Massachusetts.

 

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Many thanks to our generous hosts at the Envoy Hotel and everyone who came to help us celebrate the release of our latest report, Cell Phones in the Courthouse: An Access to Justice Perspective. Cell phone bans disproportionately impact litigants who are unable to afford an attorney, and can have critical access to justice consequences.

We’re so grateful to everyone who participated, with special thanks to Jade Brown from Greater Boston Legal Services and Erin O’Leary for sharing their personal experiences with cell phone bans and the harmful impact they can have.

To read more about this issue and what we’re doing about it, visit our current projects or click here to see the final report.

 

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Join our mailing list.

 

For Immediate Release

Boston, July 24, 2018 – A policy brief released today by the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice examines the impact of banning cell phones and other personal electronic devices in Massachusetts courthouses. It finds that there are unintended consequences to the bans, especially for self-represented litigants, and that access to justice can be harmed as a result.

“It’s become increasingly clear that courthouse cell phones bans put litigants who are representing themselves at a serious disadvantage,” said Deborah Silva, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. “Attorneys can bring smart phones into courthouses, and they often store their clients’ phones so they can be accessed throughout the day, if needed. But pro se litigants do not have that option and so they cannot access proof of payments, agreements, and injuries that are stored on their phones in the form of email, text messages, and photos.”

Trial courts in Massachusetts permit the use of cell phones and other personal electronic devices provided that they are turned off or set to be silent before entering a courtroom. However, chief justices at individual courthouses may set further restrictions and currently 56 trial courts across the state do not allow anyone other than attorneys, jurors, and court personnel to bring cell phones into the courthouse.

Interviews with attorneys, litigants, and advocates for affected populations, such as people with low incomes, survivors of domestic violence, and people who speak a first language other than English found the following:

  • Litigants are often unaware of courthouse cellphone bans until they arrive at court. A few courthouses offer safe storage of phones and other electronic devices in secure lockers, but most do not.
  • When faced with the option of missing their court appointment if they cannot get rid of their phone, litigants have resorted to hiding their phones in bushes around the courthouse, leaving a phone with a cab driver, and even stashing their phone in the bag of a bicycle locked up outside the courthouse. Outside busy courthouses, some vendors have started phone storage businesses. This works for some litigants, but others cannot afford to pay for storage.
  • Self-represented litigants who are able to store their phones outside the courthouse are often hindered without them in the courtroom because they do not have access to evidence stored on their phones that support their legal claims. Phones are also necessary for coordinating translation services and using hearing assistance apps.

Cell phone bans were originally put in place to prevent individuals from recording victims, witnesses, jurors, or court employees for the purpose of threatening or intimidating them, or even broadcasting courtroom proceedings to people outside the courtroom. While the report acknowledges that these may be legitimate concerns in certain instances, an examination of policies and practices in other states, finds that there are ways to ensure safety without disadvantaging self-represented litigants. Examples of policies in courts in Massachusetts and other states that permit cell phones in courthouses include permitting their use in the courtroom but confiscating them if they are used improperly; designating courthouse spaces in which cell phones can be used; and providing secure lockers to safely store cell phones.

“Cell phones have become an integral part of daily life for most people and banning their use in public spaces such as courthouses has serious consequences,” Silva added. “Living in a democratic society demands a constant balance of security with liberty. Cell phone bans have outlived their usefulness and we need new policies to ensure that everyone who enters a Massachusetts courtroom enjoys the promise of access to justice.”

The report, “Cell Phones in the Courthouse: An Access to Justice Perspective,” is available online: http://massappleseed.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Cell-Phones-in-the-Courthouse.pdf.

About the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice:

Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission is to promote equal rights and opportunities for Massachusetts residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to social justice issues. Working with volunteer lawyers, community partners, and others, we identify and address gaps in services and opportunities in areas such as education, homelessness, and the court system. Through in-depth research, consensus building, and community problem solving, we develop powerful solutions for reforming the systems and structures responsible. Our work seeks to level the playing field and transform communities.

Action Alert

For homeless youth, obtaining a state identification card is necessary to accomplish everyday tasks and access potentially life-saving resources. They must have ID to:

  • Apply for a job
  • Enroll in education programs
  • Obtain a library card
  • Pick up a package from the post office
  • Open any financial accounts
  • Enter certain government buildings
  • Interact with law enforcement
  • Access social services

But homeless youth face unique barriers that prevent them from easily obtaining state ID.

Senate Bill 2568, An Act to provide identification to homeless youth and families, would eliminate the $25 fee required for Massachusetts IDs for applicants experiencing homelessness and reduce verification barriers. These are common-sense solutions to ensure homeless youth are not left behind.

CALL TODAY to help homeless youth access the resources they need.

This bill has already passed the Senate UNANIMOUSLY. Now we need your help to ask House Speaker Robert DeLeo and House Ways and Means Chair Jeffrey Sánchez to strongly support its passage in the House. 

The Legislature’s formal session is scheduled to end on July 31st, which means we must act now. Having a state ID will allow homeless youth to access the resources and opportunities they need, and your call today could be the difference.

Please join us and take action today to pass Senate Bill 2568. Click here for a one-minute online action with the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless or call Speaker DeLeo and Chairman Jeffrey Sánchez and let them know they must support this critical bill:

House Speaker Robert DeLeo

617-722-2500

House Ways and Means Chair Jeffrey Sánchez

617-722-2990

Sample Call Script:

Speaker DeLeo/Chairman Sánchez,

I am calling to urge you to support the passage of Senate Bill 2568, An Act to provide identification to homeless youth and families. This bill is an important step in ensuring homeless youth can more easily obtain Massachusetts state ID, which they need to access to critical resources and opportunities.

Without state ID, homeless youth cannot apply for a job, enroll in education programs, get a library card, or accomplish many other important everyday tasks.

This bill will break down barriers that homeless youth face daily and make an important difference in their lives. I ask that you please support the passage of Senate Bill 2568 to ensure we continue to care for vulnerable youth in our state.

Thank you for your ongoing support and advocacy on behalf of the homeless youth of Massachusetts.

 

Want to stay informed on the latest issues Massachusetts Appleseed is working on?
Sign up for future action alerts.