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Contracting for Indigent Defense Services: A Special Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2000
30 pages
Publication Series
Written for individuals in the justice system who are using, considering, or implementing an indigent defense contract system, this report presents the major judicial and legislative attempts to deal with those systems, examines the best and worst features of contract systems, and discusses the national standards that govern contract systems.
As used in this report, the term "contract" refers to legal agreements between a provider and funder. This excludes staff-based programs with annual budgets but includes nonprofit corporations under contract with a funder, part-time contractors, and contractors who may be referred to as the jurisdiction's public defender. The term "contractors" refers to the attorney, law firm, associated attorneys or firms, or organization that provides representation to indigent persons under contract. A review of the history of indigent defense contracting in the United States focuses on judicial responses to contract systems, legislatures and contract systems, the New York City experience, and empirical studies of contracting systems. This is followed by an overview of the characteristics of deficient and effective contract systems. The report concludes with a review of the lessons learned from past experiences in indigent defense contracting. One lesson is that certain types of contract models carry more risk than others. A second lesson is that requests for proposals should establish guidelines, qualifications, and standards. A third lesson is that national, enforceable standards are needed. The fourth lesson is that monitoring and evaluation are important. Appended national standards and five references for more information

Date Published: April 1, 2000