The Foundation for Improvement of Justice is a private not-for-profit institution founded in 1984 for the purpose of improving local, state, and federal systems of justice within the United States of America. Each year, the Foundation accepts nominations for the Paul H. Chapman Award to recognize and reward individuals or organizations whose innovative programs and work have made improvements in the various systems of justice. Over $2,660,000 in cash awards have been distributed since 1986. The Foundation is pleased to announce the 2019 Paul H. Chapman Award winners:
Alaska Native Justice Center, Anchorage, AK – is recognized for their efforts in advocating for legislative reform to fix their state’s gaps in sexual offense laws. Established in 1993, the Alaska native Justice Center advocates for local and state changes promoting justice for Alaska native people. In 2018 the Alaska Native Justice Center, successfully brought two resolutions before the State Federation of Alaska natives leading Alaska lawmakers to propose and pass legislation that rectified loopholes in sentencing structure and better protected native people and others from predators.
Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities (AVID), Seattle, WA – is recognized for its innovated approach in reforming how county and state jails deal with their disabled inmates. Founded in 2014, AVID investigates allegations of abuse, neglect and rights violations, and when substantiated, advocates for change with corrections administrators. Using “structured negotiations” they have been able to stop jails from denying psychiatric medication and therapy, segregating inmates with disabilities and punishing people for self harm, all without litigation.
John Bair, Buffalo, NY – is recognized for his efforts to reform funding sources for plaintiffs when seeking justice through lawsuit litigation. John and his wife Amy founded Bairs Foundation in 2017 to be an alternative to for-profit lending companies who only lend to individuals going through a lawsuit at nearly usurious interest rates. The Bairs Foundation, the only one of its type in country, provides a low-cost simple interest rate funding option for plaintiffs and their families. To date this organization has served over 225 families providing over $1. 7 million in loans of which 99.5% have been paid back.
Florida Justice Technology Center, Tallahassee, FL – is recognized for their innovative “tech” approach to providing access to justice. Launched in 2015, the Florida Justice Technology Center (FJTC) created online tools that provide legal issue education, DIV documents assistance on solving problems themselves, and when and how to seek out legal aid help. Website evaluations for 2018 showed they reached nearly 400,000 unique visitors, served 20,000 low-income residents with an estimated savings of $65,000. Additionally, FJTC connects the legal aid community across the state providing subscribers access to resource libraries, downloadable legal document templates that helps to coordinate consistent policies, and further saving attorney time by streamlining delivery of information to justice advocates.
Vicki Sokolik, Tampa, FL – is recognized for her work with local homeless youth. Vicki began working with one homeless student at a time helping them to secure housing, employment, graduate high school, and complete college and scholarship applications. In 2007 after the city mayor approached her, she took her efforts city wide, opening Starting Right, Now, a comprehensive program for homeless unaccompanied youths. Advocating for her students’ ability to obtain essential documents and health care services led to advocating and promoting changes in laws. Vicki successfully worked with senators and representatives to pass legislation to enable unaccompanied youth to access their birth certificate, social security card, expedited emancipation, college tuition waivers and medicaid.
Violence Intervention Program, Baltimore, MD – is recognized for its hospital-based intervention program created to help stop the revolving door phenomenon of young gunshot victims and reduce the cost of violence. Founded in the 1990’s, the Violence Intervention Program (VIP)is introduced bedside by case managers who guide the clients through the program phases helping to move them from crisis, through goal development, into solidification of pro-social values, ending in maintenance and becoming a community role-model. Annually since 1998, the program has served approximately 1600 clients and in 2018 out of the more than 1300 clients seen by case managers, only two incidences of return were noted. Working with the state’s Criminal Injuries Compensation Board to increase the approval rate of applications has further reduced the cost of violence. Recent legislation recognized VIP as the innovator and leader in its field and made funding available to replicate their model.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).