(KCPW News) Utah falls behind the rest of the nation in the amount of money and resources it directs toward public defenders, according to a report released by the ACLU of Utah Wednesday. Executive Director Karen McCreary says the most startling evidence is the disparity between the budgets for public defenders appointed by counties and the budgets of county prosecutors. She says Utah and Pennsylvania are the only states that don’t provide oversight or funding for indigent defense.
“I mean this has been years and years that we’ve been aware of issues and also that we’ve had standards nationally set for indigent defense,” she says, “and Utah really basically fails all those kinds of standards, such as the American Bar Association’s principles.”
McCreary says as a result, it’s likely more people are being jailed longer and often unjustly.
Bevan Corry, a public defender with the Salt Lake Legal Defenders Association, says it’s incredibly important that people be represented in court adequately, especially during hard economic times, when there is potential for crime rates to increase.
“Whenever you’re dealing with being pressed for funding and just a lack of individuals to be able to deal with the amount of cases that are generated, then it just makes it more difficult and more burdensome on those individuals, despite the dedication that they have and I think the work ethic that they have also,” says Corry.
The ACLU of Utah says there should be statewide standards for indigent defense, and counties should pressure the state to subsidize their public defense budgets.