About the Smart Defense Initiative: Turning Principles into Practice
The Smart Defense Initiative is part of BJA’s Smart Suite of criminal justice. The Smart Suite supports criminal justice professionals in building evidence-based, data-driven criminal justice strategies that combine the expertise of researchers and practitioners for maximum, sustained, and measurable impact.
The purpose of Smart Defense is to improve the quality of public defense delivery systems guided by the Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System, promulgated by the American Bar Association (ABA). The ABA Ten Principles provide the fundamental building blocks for implementing quality public defense representation. These principles address defenders’ appropriate function, workload, resources, training, and quality.
The U.S. Department of Justice has long recognized the importance of quality public defense to a fair justice system. Today, despite the decades passed since the landmark decision in Gideon v. Wainwright and the important decisions that followed, recognizing the right to counsel in juvenile and misdemeanor cases, the Constitutional right to counsel is not yet fully realized.
In many states, the public defense delivery system is in crisis, with too many defendants lacking access to quality advice and representation. In addition to being a matter of constitutional concern, this void can contribute to over-incarceration, reduced confidence in the justice system, and other inequities. Without quality effective representation, a defendant may not be treated fairly, may not understand the process, and may not get the benefit of available alternatives to incarceration for first-time or low-level offenses. Additionally, if these issues are not addressed, victims are ill-served and the criminal justice system’s shared goals of justice and public safety go unmet.
The Smart Defense Initiative is one more step forward to achieving equal justice under law, whereby the amount of money you have does not dictate the quality of justice you receive.
Smart Defense Initiative Sites include:
Alameda County | Contra Costa | Kentucky | New York City | Texas | Wisconsin
Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System (ABA)Practical guide for governmental officials, policymakers, and others.12-page PDF. Approved February 2002http://smartdefenseinitiative.org/resource/ten-principles-public-defense-delivery-system-aba/
The Ten Principles: A Resource Guide for Defenders (NLADA)Guide to information, tools, training, and technical assistance available to help the public defense community.10-page PDF. Revised December 2015. http://smartdefenseinitiative.org/resource/ten-principles-resource-guide-defenders-nlada/
Indigent Defense Attorney Mentoring in Texas: A Guide to Establishing a Mentorship Program (NLADA)Describes mentoring programs currently available in Texas counties. Includes materials that can be used to develop a local mentoring curriculum. 56-page PDF. Published December 2015.http://www.tidc.texas.gov/resources/publications/reports/special-reports/indigent-defense-attorney-mentoring-in-texas
Basic Data Every Defender Program Needs to Track: A Toolkit for Defender Leaders (NLADA)Answers basic questions for defender leaders on the why, what, and how of information collection. Also suggests how to use the information collected. 28-page PDF. Published July 2014.http://smartdefenseinitiative.org/resource/basic-data-every-defender-program-needs-track-toolkit-nlada/
There is no available funding at this time. In FY2017 BJA released the Sixth Amendment Training and Technical Assistance Program. More information on that solicitation can be found at https://www.bja.gov/6thAmendment
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National Legal Aid and Defense Association is the TTA partner for Smart Defense. http://www.nlada100years.org/.
Smart Defense Initiative: Evidence-Based Justice
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