A Brooklyn, N.Y,-based grassroots group is teaching people with substance abuse disorder how to avoid getting ensnared in the criminal justice system. Organizer Jason Del Aguila says the first step is empowering individuals in their encounters with the courts and police.
Stress is an occupational hazard for lawyers, driving some to alcoholism and substance abuse. But when public defenders succumb, it can also affect the right of the poorest individuals to a fair trial, a Crime Report investigation finds.
Wisconsin relies on private lawyers for 40 percent of its public defense work and provides the lowest compensation of any state. Now the state is struggling to get lawyers to take those cases. A petition has been filed with the state Supreme Court to raise defense lawyer pay to $100 an hour from $40.
With overwhelming caseloads, public defenders are suing states for more funding. Defenders are increasingly trying other tactics: refusing to take on new cases, raising money through crowdfunding, even trying to assign a case to a sitting governor.
The state prison population has declined under the six-year-old plan to keep many convicts in local jails, the National Forum on Criminal Justice was told yesterday. But violent crime has also gone up recently.
To avoid court, motorists can write a check directly to the local prosecutor under an unusual system known as “DA Pre-Trial Diversion.” The use of diversion seems to be growing, raising eyebrows among public defenders who rely on traffic fines for funding.
The city’s chief public defender says 52 attorneys are responsible for 20,000 criminal cases each year. He says the New Orleans courts have become a criminal processing system–“a conveyor belt that starts when you are arrested.”
A guilty plea is likely to win you less leniency in sentencing if you’re an African-American male, according to a study published in Justice Quarterly. With 95% of all convictions the result of guilty pleas—many of them arranged through plea bargaining—the study authors argue that more attention needs to be paid to potential bias in the early phases of case processing.
Lawsuit by the ACLU and the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center says it would take an additional $20 million per year and 300 more lawyers for the public defender system “to meet the constitutional floor of providing minimally adequate representation to indigent defendants.”