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National Indigent Defense Reform: The Solution Is Multifaceted

NCJ Number
Joel M. Schumm
Date Published
44 pages
This report presents a blueprint for improving America's indigent defense systems, based on innovations recommended by a focus group of 18 carefully selected individuals with professional expertise and a record of innovative thinking and practice.
The focus group was convened by the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The conveners instructed the group to explore cost-effective innovations for improving the overall quality of the Nation's public defense systems. In summarizing the highlights of the discussion and innovative proposals for reform discussed by the focus group, the report is divided into three broad topics. First, the report discusses "front-end" reforms such as reclassification and diversion, which can assist in reducing the number of cases entering the court system. Second, the report turns to the delivery of services, including the importance of standards and commissions, the central role of the private bar, and the development of training. Third, the report addresses the need for collaboration and cooperation with others within and outside the criminal justice system in order to achieve significant and sustainable reform. The report concludes with the moderator's summary of the focus group's discussion. The summary solicits funding from the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance in front-end technical assistance, technical assistance in standards enforcement, broader systemic reform, and training to build a new generation of public-defender leaders. The appendixes contain remarks of Attorney General Eric Holder at a previous Summit on public defense, the preliminary report on focus group findings presented to the Justice Department, and a report on the key findings of the focus group as submitted to the Office of Justice Programs of the Justice Department. Biographies of focus group members are presented.