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Examining the Effectiveness of Indigent Defense Team Services: A Multisite Evaluation of Holistic Defense in Practice, Project Summary

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2019
53 pages
This is a summary of the National Center for State Courts' evaluation of the implementation of holistic defense practices at the following three public defender offices: The Department of Public Advocacy in Bowling Green, Kentucky; the Hennepin County Public Defender in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and the Rhode Island Public Defender in Providence County, Rhode Island.
The umbrella of what this report calls the holistic defense model covers the most developed concepts and practices of an integrated defense team. Proponents of holistic defense claim a wide range of improved client outcomes, including more favorable court dispositions and successful treatment for recurring needs, such as addiction, joblessness, and mental illness. Public benefits include reduced recidivism and less reliance on costly incarceration. The primary objectives of the current project were to examine how indigent defense providers have implemented the principles of holistic defense in practice, how holistic defense practices vary among providers, the factors that have facilitated or impeded implementation of holistic defense practices, and the influence that holistic defense practices have on case outcomes for clients compared to traditional public defense. The evaluation involved on-site interviews with attorneys, judges, social workers, investigators, and others with knowledge of practices at the site. Following the interviews, a survey of attitudes toward holistic defense and perception of practices at each site was conducted. Limited data on case outcomes were available from each of the public defender offices, which restricted the scope of the evaluation; however, in Hennepin and two adjacent Minnesota counties, administrative data were provided that enabled comparison of client outcomes among holistic public defense, traditional public defense, ad private counsel. The holistic practices at each site apparently worked to defendants' benefits, and each of the sites has adapted their holistic practices in accordance with what is and is not achieving intended goals. 22 tables

Date Published: August 1, 2019