Overview Prosecutors, judges, defense, and court personnel are looking for new approaches to ensuring the fair administration and adjudicating offenders that will not only clear cases and decrease dockets, but also lower recidivism. Throughout the country, courts are recognizing that crimes involving violent and nonviolent offenders require a special effort to ensure that these offenders are held accountable, but returned to the community with the services and supervision they need to stop offending. Additionally, state and local prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges face the challenge of meeting increasing needs with limited resources. While local court personnel will decide how to meet those needs, BJA is committed to providing resources, tools, and support to help them test their ideas.
Wrongful Conviction On December 3, 2013, OJP, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Innocence Project announced the release of the National Summit on Wrongful Convictions: Building a Systemic Approach to Prevent Wrongful Convictions report. The National Policy Summit on Wrongful Convictions gathered 75 subject matter experts from all key disciplines to address and examine the causes of and solutions to wrongful convictions across the entire spectrum of the justice system. The summit report includes 30 recommendations for making rightful arrests, correcting wrongful arrests, leveraging technology and forensic science, and re-examining closed cases. This report lays a foundation for required changes in investigative protocols, policies, training, supervision, and assessment.
Right to Counsel (Indigent Defense) The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has long recognized the importance of quality public defense to a fair justice system. A fair and equitable criminal justice system requires representation by skilled defense counsel with adequate resources at every stage of the criminal process. Today, despite the decades that have gone by since the landmark decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, and the important decisions that have followed recognizing the right to counsel in juvenile and misdemeanor cases, Gideon has yet to be fully realized.
To help jurisdictions realize Gideon’s promise and strengthen state and local public defense delivery systems, DOJ—through BJA—has invested in many defense improvement initiatives, including the following:
American University (AU), in partnership with the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA), provides training and technical assistance (TTA) to public defense providers to enhance their ability to adhere to the Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System, designated by the American Bar Association (ABA). To request TTA e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The project launched with a national survey of public defense providers to obtain their perspectives on the degree to which they are able to adhere to each of the Ten Principles, including selected "benchmarks" associated with each of the principles, obstacles encountered in adhering to the principles, promising practices they have developed, and areas for which technical assistance would be useful. The survey responses provide the foundation of a multipronged plan for the project's technical assistance services. Any public defense provider can request help from AU to increase their capacity to adhere to the Ten Principles. The project's services include:
Additionally, AU is working with BJA to launch a national campaign to educate and engage policymakers, criminal justice takeholders, and the community on the critical importance of meaningfully carrying out the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel. The goal of this campaign is to spearhead a national conversation on establishing effective public defense delivery systems throughout the country. The Right to Counsel National Campaign will have its kickoff event in Washington, D.C. on November 10, 2015.
Bronx Defenders (BXD) maintains the Center for Holistic Defense that provides support for public defender offices nationwide, replicating and mentoring Holistic Defense. Since 2010, 19 offices have been awarded as mentoring sites. BXD has developed an assessment tool composed of four pillars of Holistic Defense to assist both small and large jurisdictions with implementation. Over the past five years, BXD developed a documentary online about Holistic Defense in conjunction with live presentations, and the documentary has been integrated into Holistic Defense TTA. Most notably, BXD developed and launched a law school curriculum in a full-time class with Columbia Law School, the first of its kind. For more information, e-mail email@example.com.
Gideon’s Promise (GP) partners with public defender offices to build a community of committed and passionate attorneys to drive indigent defense reform across America. Their comprehensive model for change emphasizes client-centered values, ongoing trial advocacy training, mentoring, leadership development, and community building. GP works with BJA in the following areas:
For more information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) is a multidimensional project that includes:
Seattle University and the Sixth Amendment Center maintain the Systematic Defender Standards Project that works to increase the number of jurisdictions meeting one or more of the ABA Ten Principles through a combination of training, technical assistance, public education, and policy development. They are currently (as of September 2015) working in Mississippi, Michigan, Nevada, and Utah. For more information e-mail Elly.Kalfus@sixthamendment.org.
The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office developed a practitioner checklist to help guide attorneys through key moments in a case. The checklist is a series of benchmarks to ensure attorneys are able to competently represent their clients, while avoiding costly errors. It is based on ideas from The Checklist Manifesto, a nonfiction book by Atul Gawande that documents the value of checklists for complex and overworked systems, such as the legal system. It is being piloted in two offices in California. For a copy of the checklist, please e-mail email@example.com.
Evaluation Information and Tools BJA's Center for Research Partnerships and Program Evaluation provides visitors with information on practitioner-researcher parternships, performance measures, logic models, program evaluation, and other important information to devise solutions to improve the quality, quantity, and equity of criminal justice and public safety services.
Research The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) — the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice — is dedicated to improving knowledge and understanding of crime and justice issues through science. NIJ provides objective and independent knowledge and tools to reduce crime and promote justice, particularly at the state and local levels. Access the NIJ site for further information and access to research materials.
Statistics OJP’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) collects, analyzes, publishes, and disseminates information on crime, criminal offenders, victims of crime, and the operation of justice systems at all levels of government. These data are critical to federal, state, and local policymakers in combating crime and ensuring that justice is both efficient and evenhanded. See the BJS site for access to data on a variety of topics.
Training The Events section of the BJA site contains information about upcoming and ongoing trainings and other events related to courts and other justice topics.
BJA provides training and technical assistance support to the Community Prosecution grantees through the National Center for Community Prosecution and the Center for Court Innovation.The National Judicial College provides educational and professional development opportunities to more than 58,000 judges worldwide. BJA-sponsored courses include children as adults in court, bench skills for judges, health care and aging, disabilities and co-occurring disorders, and the role of families in the justice system.For information on all BJA-sponsored training and technical assistance, visit to BJA's National Training and Technical Assistance Center (NTTAC).
Pretrial Research Summaries:
Bail Decisionmaking by Lindsey Devers, Ph.D., CSR, Incorporated
Identifying and Serving the Needs of Pretrial Defendants by Sean Goliday, Ph.D., CSR, Incorporated
Plea and Charge Bargaining by Lindsey Devers, Ph.D., CSR, Incorporated
Pretrial Risk Assessment by Charles Summers, Ph.D and Tim Willis, Ph.D., CSR, Incorporated
Pretrial Diversion Programs by Catherine Camilletti, Ph.D., CSR, Incorporated
For statistical information, go to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) website.
Pretrial Research Summaries:
For statistical information, go to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) website.
JAG is the primary provider of federal criminal justice funding to states and units of local government. In general, JAG funds awarded to a unit of local government under the FY 2018 JAG Local Solicitation may be used to provide additional personnel, equipment, supplies, contractual support, training, technical assistance, and information systems for criminal justice. Units of local government may apply by: August 22, 2018.
JAG is the primary provider of federal criminal justice funding to states and units of local government. In general, JAG funds awarded to a state under the FY 2018 JAG State Solicitation may be used to provide additional personnel, equipment, supplies, contractual support, training, technical assistance, and information systems for criminal justice. States may apply by: August 22, 2018.
“How we respond to this crisis is a test for America”A new report, Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, finds alcohol and drug misuse and severe substance use disorders, commonly called addiction, to be one of America’s most pressing public health concerns. Nearly 21 million Americans – more than the number of people who have all cancers combined – suffer from substance use disorders.“Alcohol and drug addiction take an enormous toll on individuals, families, and communities,” said U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. “Most Americans know someone who has been touched by an alcohol or a drug use disorder. Yet 90 percent of people with a substance use disorder are not getting treatment. That has to change.”This report marks the first time a U.S. Surgeon General has dedicated a report to substance misuse and related disorders. Watch Facing Addiction in America: A National Summit to learn more about the release of the report.
Awards totaling more than $4 million were provided to 13 state and local jurisdictions to help rehabilitate and reduce recidivism among military veterans. The awards, part of BJA's Adult Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program, provide government court systems with assistance to develop and implement Veterans Treatment Courts. Read the press release to learn more.
Awards totaling more than $13 million funded under the 2016 Adult Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program were provided to 41 state, local and tribal jurisdictions and courts to help improve drug court programs through evidence-based principles and practices. Read the press release to learn more.
This evaluation by the Center for Court Innovation, the Urban Institute, and the New York State Unified Court System—and funded by BJA—finds modest reductions in re-arrest up to 3 years, with wide variation in impact across the 86 sites. In fact, while the most effective courts reduce re-arrest by up to 21 percent, the least effective courts increase re-arrest. Factors associated with more positive results include targeting a high-risk offender population; targeting a population with substantial legal exposure (e.g., felony as opposed to misdemeanor defendants); establishing a formal sanctions schedule; imposing sanctions for each noncompliant act; and including prosecutors and defense counsel as active members of the drug court team.
Why Forensic Interviewers and Prosecutors Should Explore Grooming Activities (Webinar)
Location: 3:00-4:00 p.m. ET,
Introductory Tribal Juvenile Policy/Code Development Course: Session 5 (Webinar)
Location: 2:00-4:00 p.m. ET,
California Court Association Annual Convention
Location: San Mateo,
National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies Annual Conference
Location: Fort Worth,
SHIFT Wellness Psycho Educational Program
Location: St. Paul,
See More Events
Front-End Diversion Initiative
A preadjudication diversion program designed to divert juveniles with mental health needs away from the juvenile justice system through specialized supervision and case management.
Indigent Defense for Homicide Cases (Philadelphia, Penn.)
Indigent defense involves the constitutionally mandated free representation of individuals accused of crimes who are unable to afford private representation. Since 1993, every fifth murder case is sequentially assigned at the preliminary arraignment to be represented by attorneys from the Defender Association of Philadelphia.
Maine Juvenile Drug Treatment Courts
Court supervised, post-plea (but pre-final disposition) drug diversion programs that provide comprehensive community-based treatment services to juvenile offenders and their families.
Minneapolis Center for Victim-Offender Mediation
A restorative justice program that provides juvenile offenders and their victims the opportunity to meet face-to-face in the presence of a mediator to discuss the offense and establish a plan for the future.
Adolescent Diversion Project (Michigan State University)
A strengths-based, university-led program that diverts arrested youth from formal processing in the juvenile justice system and provides them with community-based services.
See More from
Center for Court Innovation
National Association of Drug Court Professionals/National Drug Court Institute
National District Attorney's Association (NDAA)
National Center for State Courts
U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ): Office for Access to Justice
See More Related Resources
More BJA Publications
How many drug courts are there?
How can my jurisdiction establish a community court?
Where can I learn more about family courts and their function?
How many tribal drug courts are there?
Do you have resources on mental health courts?
Where can I learn more about drug courts and their functions?
See More FAQs
810 Seventh Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20531
For Government Use Only