Southern Center for Human Rights

Frugality has always a core value of the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR). It is so central to our work that it is the stuff of legends are made of. A favorite tale is the one from SCHR’s earlier days when (former Executive Director, now President) Steve Bright would sing the praises of an Ensure-only diet when investigating death penalty and prison cases on the road. “Ensure has everything you need in one can!” he was known to exclaim.

Though we now encourage our staff to consume more diverse sustenance, SCHR still maintains its thriftiness. SCHR operates on a small budget, just under $2 million, and pays modest salaries to its 25 staff members to ensure that the majority our budget goes directly into our work. Though the highest salary paid for any person is $60,000, we remain able to recruit talented lawyers and tenacious, big-hearted investigators who forego higher salaries because they believe in SCHR’s work.

Though our resources are modest, SCHR is nimble and strong. Because we do not take government funding, we have true independence in deciding what lawsuits to bring. This allows us to jump into situations that are shocking to the conscience but that others can’t or won’t respond to. Our independence is made possible by the generous support of our donors.
SCHR stretches every dollar we are fortunate enough to receive.  To give an idea of some of the things SCHR can accomplish with even modest donations, here are examples of how far $100 goes.

  • $100 covers seven hours of one SCHR’s junior associate’s time.  Recently one of SCHR’s junior attorneys uncovered the case of a man who was in his 17th month at the DeKalb County Jail, though he’d never even been accused of a crime.  After the intervention of one of SCHR’s junior associates, the judge admitted the man had been lost in the system and immediately allowed him to walk out of jail.
  • $100 pays for gas for two trips to Georgia’s death row with enough extra for an attorney to buy a vending machine meal for their client.  For many of our clients, our visits are among the very few they get each year as they await their execution date.
  • $100 pays for copies of prison incident reports like the ones that we used to sue the Department of Corrections and secure a settlement for four men incarcerated at Hays State Prison who were brutally beaten by guards while they were handcuffed. 
  • $100 keeps one of our investigators on the road for two days as they work diligently to uncover the facts that can save a life.
  • $100 buys stamps for 220 response letters to the many people in prison or their family members who contact us daily with their tragic stories of encounters with the criminal justice system. Our letter is sometimes the only response they receive. 
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