California may have to lay off some of its public defenders. It will not be suprising that I think this is a bad thing. Obviously, this is not a great economy. Most of us are hurting. Governments need to cut costs, just like everyone else.
As the linked to article makes clear, though, cutting public defender budgets is really not a great way to do it.
Defendants would sit in jail longer, increasing incarceration costs. . . . Cases would be delayed while private attorneys get up to speed, creating bigger clogs in a legal pipeline that barely trickles now.
And, of course, paying private counsel to work on cases instead of paying a public defender’s office is an illusory cost savings.
That said, budgets must be cut; books must be balanced. What’s the best way to implement a cheaper system of criminal justice?
If you have questions about how federal criminal charges are different than state criminal charges, please visit this page on Maryland federal criminal charges or Washington DC federal criminal charges.
Stop putting people in prison who don’t belong there. The list of people who have been incarcerated for first time offenses is long.
In federal court, for example, if you use a fake id in connection with another felony, you will recieve a mandatory sentence of two years. There’s nothing a judge can do if the prosecutor proves your guilt to this statute; a judge is obligated by law to sentence you to two years in prison. It doesn’t matter why you committed the crime, whether anyone was injured, or what your background is.
Drug crimes are worse – meet the mandatory minimum in drug quantity and there is precious little that a court can do to determine whether you deserve the five or ten year sentence that you’ll get from the prosecutors charging decision.
When we get to a point where we can’t afford to pay lawyers to defend people’s rights, though, I don’t see how we can afford to pay to lock people up without regard to the circumstances of the person involved.
So, instead of firing public defenders, we should repeal mandatory minimum sentences.