Monday, September 21, 2015

Irony Fee for Public Defender Services

Recently, John Oliver focused on the underfunding of public defenders in our justice system. Overworked and underpaid, in some localities they have just seven minutes per case (!). This leads to defendants taking plea bargains (90 to 95 percent of the time, currently), rather than go to trial.

As NPR noted last year in its series on the return of debtors' prison, it's not unusual for poor defendants to be billed for their "free" attorneys. Almost all states do this in one amount or another, including Minnesota. Some even bill the defendant for the prosecutor's time!

Oliver is right to say they might as well charge an "irony fee."

All of this is part of the increasing transfer of the cost of government to the people who can least afford to pay for it.

(Don't miss the last two minutes of the segment.)

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