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NCJ Number: 156737 Find in a Library
Title: Indigent Defense and the U.S. War on Drugs: The Public Defender's Losing Battle
Journal: Criminal Justice  Volume:6  Issue:3  Dated:(Fall 1991)  Pages:14-20
Author(s): T R Murphy
Date Published: 1991
Page Count: 7
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The article examines the impact of the U.S. "war on drugs" on public-defender caseloads and the resources needed to handle the caseloads.
Abstract: The vast majority of defendants charged with drug and drug- related offenses (70-90 percent) are found indigent and require appointed counsel. The emphasis on drug law enforcement and zero tolerance for drug possession has increased the number of such cases coming into the criminal justice system. If the criminal justice system is to fulfill its mandate, then there must be a balance of resources and performance among police, prosecution, and indigent defense resources. Whatever relative balance may have previously existed in police, prosecutor, and indigent defense resources is now jeopardized across the Nation by the war on drugs. An analysis of relevant data from New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Memphis, and Washington, D.C., shows the dramatic increase in drug cases in recent years and the increasingly heavy burdens these cases place on indigent defender offices. Current Federal policy as articulated in the national drug control strategy is grounded on the premise that indigent defense is solely the responsibility of State and local governments. The September 1989 "blueprint" for the "war on drugs" makes no mention of indigent defense. With few exceptions, State and local public defender offices throughout the Nation contend that they are dangerously underfunded, understaffed, and often at the brink of announcing that they cannot accept additional cases without compromising the quality of defense services offered. There are wide disparities in per capita spending for indigent defense services among the States, but defender offices in every State maintain that they are underfunded, whatever their relative national ranking. Those indigent defender offices that have been relatively successful in obtaining funding emphasize the need to be politically astute. This means establishing and maintaining rapport with the funding body, which involves cultivating representatives, lobbying the legislatures, cajoling influential committee members, and marshaling support from court leadership and well as the leadership of State and local bar associations.
Main Term(s): Court case flow
Index Term(s): Court appointed counsel; Drug law enforcement; Drug Policy; Funding sources; Indigents; Public defenders
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