Tag Archives: public defender

Lowest State Indigent Defense Expenditures in Five Years

Fact: In 2012, state governments spent $2.2 billion on indigent defense services, the lowest total in five years. 

Source: Indigent Defense Services report, Bureau of Justice Statistics


Charging Defendants for Court Employees’ Gym Costs

Fact: In some states, defendants are charged hundreds or thousands of dollars for their own arrest warrants, court-ordered drug and alcohol rehabilitation services, to have DNA samples collected, and even for jury trials.

Fact: In Michigan, an impoverished man was charged $1000 in court costs related to forging a prescription to pay for the following:

  • his court-appointed attorney
  • salaries of court employees
  • heat in the court building
  • operating telephones and copy machines
  • underwriting the cost of the court employees’ fitness gym

Fact: In some cases, a defendant can do community service in lieu of fines. However, there is often a per day fee for this.

Fact: A 2004 Department of Justice survey estimates that over 65% of prisoners leave jail financially indebted to the state. A more recent estimate places the figure at 80 to 85%.

SourceGuilty As Charged, NPR

Imprisonment To Pay Fees

Fact: Many services that were once free, including constitutionally protected ones, are increasingly subject to fee schedules. Failure to pay can result in imprisonment.

Fact: In at least 43 states and the District of Columbia, defendants can be billed for their public defender’s services.

Fact: In at least 41 states, inmates can be charged for room and board during jail and prison stays.

Fact: In at least 44 states, offenders can be billed for their own probation and supervision.

Fact: In all states except Hawaii and the District of Columbia, there is a fee for electronic monitoring devices that defendants and offenders are ordered to wear.

Source: Guilty As Charged, NPR


Right to Counsel & Public Defenders Overload

Fact: In Wisconsin, more than 11,000 poor people go to court without representation annually. Anyone who makes more than $3,000 per year is considered able to afford a lawyer.

Fact: In Lake Charles, Louisiana, the public defender’s office has two investigators for the 2,500+ felony cases assigned to the office annually.

Source: The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander


Fact: In St. Louis County, public defenders routinely handle more than 200 felony cases per year, including murder and rape cases. Because of the overload, about 4,000 juveniles are sentenced without representation annually.

Fact: At times, St. Louis County public defenders represent clients in 10 different cases simultaneously.

Source: The New York Times, Public Defenders, Bolstered by a Work Analysis and Rulings, Push Back Against a Tide of Cases