GAO: Most Byrne JAG Aid to Police, Prosecution, Little to Defense


Almost none of the money that the federal government provides to state and local governments for justice system improvements goes to helping to defend poor people, says a Government Accountability Office study quoted by The Constitution Project. The organization says the report bears out claims that supporters of indigent defense have made for years that there is an enormous disparity between governmental financial support for prosecutors and defenders.

The GAO report says almost half the money block granted to the states under the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program (Byrne JAG) goes to fund law enforcement and prosecution activities, with less than 1 percent being used for public defenders or other private lawyers appointed to assist those who cannot afford legal representation on their own. “Despite repeated calls from the legal community for improved funding for indigent defense, and even though Attorney General Holder himself has declared a ‘crisis’ in the right to counsel for the poor, this study shows that state and local governments continue to give justice for the needy short shrift when they divide up the federal dollars they receive,” said Virginia Sloan, president of The Constitution Project.

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