What is it about?

Public defender services are often said to be poorly funded, and are assumed to be low quality. They don't provide enough attention to clients, get bad outcomes for them in court, and do not assure that criminal trials are fair in the way they are supposed to. The state of New York is planning to increase public defense funding a lot, so we look at all the ways the quality of public defense services can be assessed, and we ask senior public defenders in the state what difference they think the money will make.

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Why is it important?

New York is conducting a unique experiment in public defense by funding it adequately for the first time. For the first time in the history of the United States, we'll know whether reducing public defender caseloads really helps them provide better services to clients, get better outcomes from them in court, and change the ways those courts work overall. This article introduces that experiment and lays out some criteria for analyzing its impact.


The New York experiment in public defense funding is historic. It will produce important information that other states can learn from on how and when public defense makes a difference, and is the first chance to really assess whether properly-funded defense services can defend and preserve the fairness of the court system in the ways that justice advocates have always hoped they would.

Andrew Davies
Southern Methodist University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Unique New York? Theorizing the Impact of Resources on the Quality of Defense Representation in a Deviant State, Criminal Justice Policy Review, December 2019, SAGE Publications,
DOI: 10.1177/0887403419890650.
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