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Indigent Defense Environmental Scan

NCJ Number
Date Published
20 pages

This publication presents the results of an environmental scan conducted by RTI International and RAND Corporation to highlight areas where additional research is needed on effective indigent defense strategies.


On behalf of the National Institute of Justice, RTI International and RAND Corporation researchers conducted an environmental scan to develop a set of information gaps or research priorities that, if addressed, could advance knowledge around effective indigent defense strategies. In the scan, the researchers (1) explored the literature around the needs of the indigent defense field, (2) obtained input from leading practitioners through individual interviews, group discussion, and interactive feedback, and (3) reviewed the priorities of federal and private research and practitioner organizations. The systems that provide counsel for indigent adult and juvenile defendants in the United States vary considerably across states, localities, and judicial jurisdictions. In addition to the challenges associated with the myriad systems for providing indigent defense, there are other inherent challenges to providing effective defense counsel. These challenges include a lack of sufficient resources in general, access to investigators and other support staff, workload standards and other standards to support effective representation, strategies to support the recruitment and retention of quality counsel dedicated to indigent defense, and specialized training and other needs related to the provision of public defense with certain clients or cases.

Date Published: January 1, 2023