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The Implementation and Impact of Indigent Defense Standards

Date Published
June 22, 2013

Researchers from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, under a grant from NIJ, studied the impact of standards developed by national commissions to make indigent defense services more uniform, effective and efficient. The goal of their work was to measure the influence of prior national standards and help state and local governments, funding agencies, and indigent defense agencies assess the need for standardization. To achieve this goal, they surveyed states and then constructed more detailed verification and analyses of the impacts of defense standards in four jurisdictions.

They concluded that indigent defense standards play a key role in keeping workloads manageable, allocating for adequate staff, maintaining necessary levels of funding for staff, ensuring uniform quality of service, improving supervision and evaluation of staff, and improving coordination among the courtroom workgroup, which includes judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys. They also found, however, that the benefits of standards are highly dependent on the manner and extent of their enforcement. As a result, enforcement of standards is typically tied to appropriations from the state or other funding mechanisms.

About This Article

The research described in this article was funded by NIJ award 1999-IJ-CX-0049, awarded to National Legal Aid and Defender Association . This article is based on the grantee report "Implementation and Impact of Indigent Defense Standards (pdf, 93 pages), Scott Wallace and David Carroll, National Legal Aid and Defender Association, December 2003.

Date Published: June 22, 2013