The Southern Poverty Law Center's goals are to fight hate, to teach tolerance, and to seek justice. We work on behalf of victims of civil rights abuses and hate crimes, and promote the civil and human rights of groups most affected by bias and discrimination in our society: minorities, immigrants, guest workers, children, the poor, and the LGBT community – both in the Deep South and nationwide. We organize our work in seven programmatic priorities: Hate and Extremism; Criminal Justice Reform; Children at Risk; LGBT Rights; Immigrant Justice, Economic Justice; and, Teaching Tolerance.
The SPLC's strategies combine litigation, public information and education, media outreach, and advocacy.
The SPLC has been on the forefront of social justice since its founding in 1971. We are an internationally recognized leader in advancing civil rights and social equality and considered the nation's preeminent organization monitoring the radical right. We have an active case docket, and focus on holding hate groups accountable for murders and other violent acts committed by their members; ending workplace exploitation of immigrants; challenging unconstitutional or discriminatory laws and policies affecting immigrants, minorities and the LGBT community; and working to reform juvenile justice, mental health, and education systems that fail children and routinely push students out of classrooms and into the criminal justice system, disproportionately harming African-American and Latino students living in poverty. The SPLC attorneys focus on these critical civil rights issues from six SPLC offices in the Deep South.
The SPLC provides information about hate groups and other extremists, their activities and their crimes to the public, law enforcement, policymakers, human rights organizations, and the media with the goal of preventing hate and extremism from entering the mainstream. The SPLC provides information and training materials to tens of thousands of law enforcement officers nationwide and conducts in-person training with thousands of officers per year. The SPLC also seeks to foster equality in the classroom and support tolerance education by providing award-winning, anti-bias materials to more than 450,000 teachers and schools nationwide. The SPLC educates the public on the structural causes, and impacts, of inequality and uses a multifaceted approach of community education, mobilization, media and legislative advocacy to combat bias and discrimination against minorities, immigrants, the poor, the LGBT community and other vulnerable members of society. All of the SPLC's work is provided free of charge.
The SPLC's strategic planning process includes an overall evaluation of its programs, priorities and progress towards its goals. We define success and hold ourselves accountable to the impact of our civil rights' litigation and advocacy campaigns. On the litigation side this includes: (1) the direct impact on the clients we represent and the relief we are able to obtain for them; (2) our influence on the broader civil rights and social justice field, by setting legal precedents that hold perpetrators on injustice accountable, and; (3) the leverage we create for others to advance and mainstream social justice and civil rights. On the public information, education and advocacy side, this includes: (1) the number and the quality of our publications, magazines, reports and white papers; (2) the positive media coverage of our work; (3) the degree to which policy allies rely on our cases and reports (4) the efficacy of our educational materials, and (5) our ability to continue to have the ear of policymakers at the federal level.
Hate and Extremism: We are the only organization that produces an annual hate group list, making our efforts essential to gauging the level of extremism in the United States. Currently, there are 954 known hate groups operating across the country, including neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, border vigilantes and others. We also combat hate through litigation designed to hold hate groups and individuals accountable for their crimes, deter their future misconduct, and win justice for their victims.
Children at Risk: The SPLC has a longstanding commitment to ensure that vulnerable children in the Deep South have an equal opportunity to reach their full potential. Our attorneys focus primarily on two public systems with a significant impact on the life outcomes of at-risk children: the juvenile justice and education systems. Currently we're focusing on stopping the “school-to-prison pipeline; ensuring equal access to for children in poverty and those with disabilities; and ensuring access to mental health services for children living in poverty.
Criminal Justice Reform: We focus on making sure these systems operate fairly and equitably; to ensure the dignity and humanity of those interacting with these systems; and to reduce the population of jailed, detained, and incarcerated juveniles, immigrants, and adults.
Economic Justice: We legal cases and advocacy seeks to ensure that people living in poverty in the Deep South, particularly communities of color, are not punished or exploited because of their economic status. We focus on court debt and bail, government safety nets and consumer protection.
Immigrant Justice: The SPLC works to ensure that immigrants are treated fairly, equally, and with dignity and are empowered to live their lives as full members of society. We focus on immigrant enforcement and “crimmigration"; civil rights of immigrants; and protecting immigrant workers from workplace abuse.
LGBT Rights: We work to eliminate discrimination against the LGBT community, particularly in the Deep South.
Teaching Tolerance: Our mission is to help teachers and schools educate children and youth to be active participants in a diverse democracy. Teaching Tolerance provides free resources to educators—teachers, administrators, counselors and other practitioners—who work with children from kindergarten through high school. Educators use our materials to supplement the curriculum, to inform their practices, and to create civil and inclusive school communities where children are respected, valued and welcome participants. Our program emphasizes social justice and anti-bias. The anti-bias approach encourages children and young people to challenge prejudice and learn how to be agents of change in their own lives. Our Social Justice Standards show how anti-bias education works through the four domains of identity, diversity, justice and action.