Sunday, March 28, 2010

Idaho's Broken System of Indigent Defense

The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) finds that the state of Idaho fails to provide the level of representation required by our Constitution for those who cannot afford counsel in its criminal and juvenile courts. By delegating to each county the responsibility to provide counsel at the trial level without any state funding or oversight, Idaho has sewn a patchwork quilt of underfunded, inconsistent systems that vary greatly in defining who qualifies for services and in the level of competency of the services rendered. While there are admirable qualities of some of the county indigent defense services, NLADA finds that none of the public defender systems in the sample counties are constitutionally adequate.


Executive Summary
Full Report

The correctional population in Idaho continues to grow, while the budget is cut yet again. The ACLU is suing the state and the Corrections Corporation of America for running a "gladiator school." Canyon County is trying for a third time to pass a bond in order to build a new jail. The ACLU has also sued Canyon County because of its antiquated jail. The Commission on Pardons and Parole wasted $6.8 million dollars in less than two years because it cannot release inmates in a timely manner. And now comes this report of an unconstitutional indigent defense system, plagued by too many cases and too little money.

What will it take for the governor to step up and show leadership on this issue?  Millions of dollars are wasted each year while the lives of countless individuals who find few, if any, treatment opportunities are destroyed. The system is broken, indeed.  

H/T to Idaho Prison Watch

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