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A mockery of justice

Cuts to Indigent Defense System have left our justice system unbalanced

Add this to the list of potential fallout from the state’s unprecedented budget disaster: Oklahoma may soon be forced to release people accused of violent crimes because the state can’t afford to pay for their legal representation.

Every person accused of a crime in the United States is constitutionally guaranteed the right to be represented by an attorney. The duty of protecting this right falls squarely on the states. It’s a significant task. Over 80 percent of those charged with felonies are represented by a public defender because they cannot afford to hire a lawyer.

In theory, America provides a fair justice system by putting public defenders and district attorneys on equal footing to pursue the best defense and prosecution possible. In practice, indigent defense systems across the country are in full-fledged crisis, and their funding is “shamefully inadequate,” according to the American Bar Association. The result is a deeply imbalanced system that makes a mockery of justice for the poor....

Oklahoma Policy Institute is a non-partisan independent policy think-tank. It promotes adequate, fair, and fiscally responsible funding of public services and expanded opportunity for all Oklahomans by providing timely and credible information, analysis, and ideas. Read the rest of this story and find more in-depth policy analysis at okpolicy.org.