WNEU setting up free legal kiosks to help economically disadvantaged in Springfield

Kiosks are about to go up all around Springfield to offer legal help to anyone who needs it.
Published: Oct. 12, 2022 at 6:28 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Kiosks are about to go up all around Springfield to offer legal help to anyone who needs it and Western New England University’s Center for Social Justice is behind the idea.

For the center, it is a way to help people who are economically and technologically disadvantaged when it comes to getting answers to legal questions. Director Ariel Clemmer told Western Mass News this kind of computer station will allow a “greater access to justice.”

“Anyone who doesn’t have the necessary technology devices or Wifi or broadband can come to one of these free kiosk locations and get connected to free legal resources,” Clemmer said.

That’s not all. The kiosks also allow users to get more information on legal questions or cases, as well as use Zoom to connect with their attorneys or the court system. This project is the second phase of the Consumer Debt Initiative, which was created in 2018 to help those in the Springfield area who were facing credit card issues and consumer debt. The Legal Kiosk Project was two years in the making and was fully funded by the MassMutual Foundation. Board member and Western New England alum Dorothy Varon said another goal of the project is to help close a digital divide.

“During COVID, for example, when all the courts were going virtual, if you didn’t have access to broadband and you couldn’t be virtually connected, you were really almost unable to participate in court proceeding that you were involved with,” Varon noted.

The kiosks will be found at ten locations, including one at the Western New England University School of Law library. Others sites include the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, the New North Citizens Council, the United Way of Pioneer Valley, and Open Pantry Community Services. The equipment will also be found in five city libraries including Brightwood, Forest Park, Indian Orchard, Library Express at Pine Point, and Mason Square.

Dory Welch, the community outreach and engagement coordinator for the Center for Social Justice, is a Springfield resident. She helped find the proper locations for these kiosks and is proud to give her community a big assist.

“I love my community. I’ve been able to witness over the years the strengths that we have, but also the challenges, so I’m very excited that we’re bringing such a great and much needed resource,” Welch said.

Aside from those who may be at a disadvantage, Clemmer told us the device can be a boost for the general public.

“This is really a tool of resilience to help empower people and to connect to the justice system on their terms,” Clemmer explained.

The Western New England University Center for Social Justice will hold a launch event for the kiosks on Monday, October 17 at Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Services in Springfield from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The public will then be able to use the devices the following day.