In Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court recognized the constitutional right to an attorney for criminal defendants who could not afford one. But that was 50 years ago. Our criminal justice system has grown dramatically since then — without the funding necessary for public defenders to keep up with growing caseloads and resource demands. Today, public defense offices are so overworked and underfunded that clients are not getting the legal defense they were guaranteed, further feeding our nation’s mass incarceration problem. In this report, Thomas Giovanni and Roopal Patel examine the numerous challenges public defenders face in providing legal representation to poor clients and propose three common sense solutions to ensure poor defendants get the legal representation they need.
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