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Sixth Amendment Strategic Planning: A Research-to-Practice Approach

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $158,280)

Problem to be addressed. Despite recent advances, the protection of Sixth Amendment rights remains a national crisis. State and local governments face a core set of challenges, including: a lack of state-level integration and/or independent oversight; diffuse and antiquated data infrastructures; and capacity shortfalls. Court systems play a role in the problem through the denial of counsel, overcrowded calendars, and lengthy court delays. A court system-specific training and technical assistance (TTA) approach rooted in evidence-based practice appears to be absent from the national technical assistance field.

Project goals and objectives. In response to strong interest from the field and the crucial role played by court systems, the Center supplemented its FY 2017 grant by increasing the number of jurisdictions eligible to receive strategic planning TTA and developing additional strategic planning tools for a national audience. The goal was to enhance the capacity of state and local governments to uphold Sixth Amendment rights by piloting pragmatic, evidence-based strategies in diverse jurisdictions with targeted recruitment of court system applicants; providing needs-based TTA to sustain those strategies; and disseminating findings to a broad audience. Both the FY 2017 grant and FY 2018 supplement set the stage for developing a national model to support the protection of Sixth Amendment rights.

The project unfolded in five distinct phases: 1) work with BJA to select the demonstration sites; 2) conduct a thorough needs assessment and create tailored TTA plans in each site; 3) facilitate implementation of the strategic plans through the delivery of on-site and remote TTA; 4) document challenges and lessons learned; and 5) develop products with broad applicability for BJA’s Sixth Amendment website.

Project strategy. The project took a rigorous, evidence-generating approach to building capacity and documenting the successes and shortfalls of strategies in five diverse demonstration sites. The implemented TTA approach paired experienced practitioners with researchers and combined in-person site visits with remote TTA to form a tailored, responsive strategy in each demonstration site.

Anticipated outcomes and major deliverables. The Center provided strategic, needs-based technical assistance to 16 total demonstration sites. The Center developed and continues to develop and disseminate materials relating to the protection of Sixth Amendment rights, including a publication on race and public defense practices and information on the use of video court. These products will be made easily accessible to policy-makers, researchers, media, defender programs, court systems, and others through BJA’s Sixth Amendment website.

Date Created: April 26, 2023