How Bad Is the Disparity in Federal Funding for Indigent Defense?


jag.jpg.scaled1000Seven-tenths of one percent!

Based on the results of a recent study by the General Accounting Office, states awarded only .7 percent of all Byrne JAG money to indigent legal defense over a five year period. Byrne JAG grants are federal monies competitively awarded to state and local governments for use in criminal justice systems.

Robert M. A. Johnson, a former county prosecutor in Minnesota and a current co-chair of The Constitution Project’s National Right to Counsel Committee, detailed the causes and dangers of this continued discrepancy in a recent op-ed for The Hill.

As Johnson reminds us, while police, courts and prosecutors receive the lion’s share of Federal grant money in the criminal justice system, the right to counsel is the only function of this system that is guaranteed by the Constitution.

Johnson further points out that despite encouragement from The Constitution Project and others, we are far from the ideal when it comes to prioritizing the distribution of these grants. Read his op-ed. How will we develop a fairer distribution of federal grants? Why is it important?

For a good review of the right to counsel in America, see the excellent report “Justice Denied: America’s Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel”