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Shapiro-Davis Administration Approves Applications for Historic Indigent Defense Grant Funding

06/06/2024

Harrisburg, PA - Today, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency’s (PCCD) Indigent Defense Advisory Committee (IDAC) approved more than $6.6 million in funding to Pennsylvania counties for indigent defense services across the Commonwealth and ensuring every Pennsylvanian has access to adequate legal counsel. This first of its kind solicitation was announced in April under Pennsylvania’s new Indigent Defense Grant Program providing noncompetitive, formula-based grants to counties for improving indigent defense services, which provide legal representation for those who cannot afford it on their own.

Governor Shapiro promised to improve Pennsylvania’s standing as one of only two states in the country that did not provide state funding for indigent defense services. Last year, the Governor delivered on that promise by securing $7.5 million in the 2023-24 budget as a historic first-time appropriation of state funding for indigent defense services across the Commonwealth. The 2024-25 state budget proposes a $2.5 million increase for indigent defense funding— a total of $10 million to be funded through PCCD.

"Last year, we came together to allocate sustainable funding to help meet the needs of public defenders and the defendants who rely on them. My Administration is now putting those resources to work – working with our county partners to encourage them to submit applications and ensure these resources for public defense are utilized in every corner of the Commonwealth," said Governor Josh Shapiro. "We need to do more to build equity in our criminal justice system, but it's critically important that we start here – with sustained, dedicated funding for public defenders. That's why I proposed investing another $10 million in our public defenders this year to ensure that everyone has a fair shot and both sides have an adequate opportunity to present a strong case in court."

The goal of the new grant program is to improve the capacity and effectiveness of indigent defense services in Pennsylvania through efforts to recruit and retain staff; improve data collection and reporting capacity; obtain necessary training, professional development, and technical assistance; and fill any other gaps identified by the county, in consultation with indigent defense service providers.  

“Pennsylvania public defenders are doing important work, but they’re often underpaid and overburdened with huge caseloads. That’s why it’s crucial that we as a Commonwealth help shoulder the burden of funding indigent defense, so that every Pennsylvanian has access to justice,” said Lt. Gov. Austin Davis. “I look forward to the work that will be done across the Commonwealth with this historic funding to improve the quality of services that all Pennsylvanians have the right to receive.”

Among the approved applications, the majority of counties plan to utilize funds to support the recruitment and hiring of new positions and for staff retention to reduce workloads and improve the quality of services to indigent defendants. Additionally, some counties identified technology, equipment, and case management software upgrades as planned uses for the grant funding. 

“Cumberland County is grateful for the Commonwealth’s historic investment in public defense through this grant,” Michael Halkias, Esq. Chief Public Defender of Cumberland County. “Regardless of their income and economic circumstances, all neighbors should have access to adequate, professional legal counsel. By acknowledging the disparities within the criminal justice system and investing resources into indigent defense, you will help Cumberland County work toward a more equitable and just criminal justice system.”

Act 34 of 2023 established the Indigent Defense Advisory Committee within PCCD. The committee is tasked with several duties and responsibilities under the law, including the development of standards, training, and related professional development resources for attorneys representing indigent defendants; county- and state-level data collection and analysis; preparation of biennial reports; and the approval and disbursement of grants under the Indigent Defense Grant Program.

Applications will be considered at the June 12, 2024 commission meeting, and upon approval, counties will able to utilize the funding beginning July 1, 2024.

Visit the PCCD website to stay up to date on the latest news related to the Indigent Defense Advisory Committee.


MEDIA CONTACT: Ali Gantz - algantz@pa.gov


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