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Misdemeanor Early Representation Program - Contra Costa County Office of Public Defender

Award Information

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

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $377,657)

The Smart Defense Initiative, administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), is part of BJA’s “Smart Suite” of criminal justice programs including Smart Pretrial, Smart Policing, Smart Supervision, and Smart Prosecution. BJA established the Smart Suite over 5 years ago with the creation of the Smart Policing Initiative. The Smart Suite supports criminal justice professionals in building evidence-based, data-driven criminal justice strategies that are effective, efficient, and economical. BJA’s smart programs represent a strategic approach that brings more “science” into criminal justice operations by leveraging innovative applications of analysis, technology, and evidence-based practices.

DOJ has long recognized the importance of quality public defense to a fair justice system. 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.

The purpose of this program 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) in 2002. The ABA Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System (the ABA Ten Principles) represent fundamental building blocks for implementing quality legal representation for indigent criminal defendants. Released in 2002, the ABA Ten Principles list the American Bar Association’s recommendations for government officials and other parties who are charged with improving public defense delivery systems. These principles address defenders’ appropriate function, workload, resources, training, and quality, and have been recognized by the Attorney General “as [an] essential guidepost for ensuring that our indigent defense efforts are as effective- and as efficient – as possible.”

Contra Costa County will use this award to fund their Misdemeanor Early Representation Program (MERP), which is designed to provide immediate representation for persons cited for misdemeanor offenses so as to reduce incarceration and other collateral consequences -- such as warrants, arrests, additional criminal charges stemming from failures to appear, and time spent in-custody -- for indigent clients in the urban city of Richmond. CA/NCF

Date Created: September 26, 2016