Indigent Defense Reform Due in Georgia

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Georgia legislative negotiators agreed yesterday on a plan to overhaul the state’s uneven system that provides legal defense for poor people charged with crimes, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The plan is expected to be approved today by the legislature.

Georgia’s indigent defense system, which represents about 80 percent of the state’s criminal defendants, is a hodgepodge of systems with little oversight. A Georgia Supreme Court commission found that underfunded programs often fail to protect defendant rights, increase jail costs and heighten the chance of innocent people being convicted.

The new system would be headed by an 11-member state board that will set standards of performance and will have the power to remove defenders who fail to meet the standards.

The bill assumes that the state, which now funds only 11 percent of the $50 million system, would greatly increase its share of funding.


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