In 1995, when Congress forbid the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) from representing public housing tenants in drug-related eviction cases, people thought that the group had severed its ties to criminal justice cases. They were wrong.

While the legal help provided by the corporation is technically civil, the variety of its cases, which often involve family crises, provides a “social safety net” for persons who could easily fall into the criminal justice system, according to John McKay, the president of LSC.