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Gideon at 60: A Snapshot of State Public Defense Systems and Paths to System Reform

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2023

In collaboration with the Department of Justice’s Office for Access to Justice, the National Institute of Justice sponsored this report on public defense system models in recognition of the 60th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963). Gideon v. Wainwright established the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel to indigent persons charged with felonies in state courts, which was later extended to misdemeanors and delinquency proceedings in juvenile court. Researchers Marea Beeman, J.D., and Claire Buetow, J.D., conducted a national scan of the public defense (also known as indigent defense) service models currently used in U.S. state, local, and tribal adult, trial-level, criminal cases. The report addresses the prevalence of different models, factors contributing to how jurisdictions select different models, and variations in case and other outcomes associated with each model. Findings are based on a review and synthesis of publicly available material, including research reports, law review articles, government agency websites, and news accounts; and interviews with 17 subject matter experts.

Date Published: November 1, 2023