Wednesday, January 19, 2011

NYTimes editorial supports Indiana sentencing reforms

Last week, we noted an important effort to keep non-violent offenders out of Indiana's prisons system as a solution to the state's budget woes. On Monday, the New York Times published an editorial supporting those reforms, and praised Gov. Mitch Daniels' leadership in this effort. Well worth the read.

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12:25 PM
Wednesday, January 19, 2011

MN criminal justice policymakers brace for major cuts as state faces $6.2B deficit

Today's Star-Tribune has an important story chronicling the impact Minnesota’s $6.2 billion deficit has had upon the state’s justice system.  Cuts in funding in recent years continue to strain the state’s already beleaguered public defender system.  Stakeholders are bracing themselves for even more budget cuts this coming year.  

"I cannot overestimate the importance of this issue," said Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea. "The success of our democracy depends on a vibrant, fully functioning justice system ... We can't put the people in prison that we're afraid of if we don't have an adequately funded justice system."

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12:01 PM
Tuesday, January 18, 2011

TX County Looks to Cut Indigent Defense Costs

Like so many counties across the nation, Montgomery County, Texas, is looking to cut its expenses. According to the Conroe Courier, a member of the local judiciary suggests looking to indigent defense to cut costs.  The county currently operates under an assigned counsel model for adult criminal cases, with judges approving attorney vouchers. Juvenile cases are handled under contract with three private attorneys at a $175,000 flat annual fee.

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2:05 PM
Friday, January 14, 2011

High Court asked whether poor can be jailed on contempt without lawyer

The United States Supreme Court has been asked to hear a case squarely addressing whether an indigent person can be jailed on civil contempt, without being given a lawyer to represent him.  In Turner v. Rogers, Michael Turner served a year in prison when he was held in contempt by a South Carolina court for failing to timely pay child support, but he had to represent himself in court and had no lawyer to represent him.  "The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled the sentence was coercive, rather than punitive, and Turner had no right to a lawyer," explains the ABA Journal.

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3:55 PM
Friday, January 14, 2011

Indiana Chief Justice supports state's reclassification efforts

Indiana's chief justice during his annual State of the Judiciary Speech backs criminal justice reforms that propose to keep non-violent offenders out of the prisons system, reports the Indianapolis Star.  "Making good decisions about which offenders are so risky that a prison bed is the only sound solution and which ones can be treated adequately through local alternatives makes all the difference in the world for public safety, recidivism rates, employability of offenders and the dollars we spend on corrections."

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12:59 PM
Friday, January 14, 2011

Gideon Alert: Ignoring the 6th Amendment in Broward County, Florida Municipal Courts

It is an all too common occurrence for misdemeanor courts in the United States to pressure people charged with misdemeanors into waiving their right to counsel without adequately informing them of the consequences of doing so.  Courts defend such practices as an attempt to expedite the processing of cases and save money, but the Sixth Amendment does not allow this type of shortcut.  And, the consequences for unrepresented people can be severe, such as loss of public housing, deportation, inability to serve in the armed forces, ineligibility for student loans, and significant financial penalties.

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9:00 AM