Evaluating the Defense of Indigent Offenders in Northwest Louisiana: A Preliminary Assessment

Bernadette Jones Palombo, Louisiana State University

The purpose of this study is to systemically examine the provision of legal defense services to indigents in Northwest Louisiana and to recommend changes where warranted. Specifically, this study assesses the funding, staffing and caseload of the Caddo Parish Public Defenders Office (PDO), the amount of contact the public defenders have with their clients, and the resources available to the PDO vis-a-vis the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office (DAO). This research adresses whether the PDO receives adequate resources and access to expertise to carry out its public defense mission. Data collection instruments include indigent client inmate surveys; public and financial records from the PDO; computerized criminal case file records from the DAO as well as public records containing financial budgetary information; arrest and booking records and public records on the systematic screening for indigency requests from the Clerk of Court; attorney/investigator jail visitation records from the local Correctional Center; and a survey of local private criminal defense lawyers to compare private client with public defender outcomes. Analysis of data that has been provided to date indicates that resources to, and services by, the PDO are woefully inadequate for it to carry outs its public defense mission.

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Updated 05/20/2006