Harrisburg, PA - For the first time in Pennsylvania history, the Commonwealth will make a significant investment in state funding for indigent defense services, which provide legal representation for those who cannot afford it. Previously, Pennsylvania was one of only two states in the nation that did not provide state funding for these locally provided legal services.
Last week, Governor Shapiro signed into law bipartisan bills that further deliver on his top priorities to create a stronger economy, safer and healthier communities, and better schools. The budget includes $7.5 million in funding to expand support and resources for public defenders to ensure access to constitutionally required legal defense for ‘indigent’ defendants who cannot pay for it on their own, making good on the Governor’s promise from his first budget address.
“Everyone deserves fair and equal treatment in the justice system, and if someone is unable to afford legal defense, that can lessen their chances of receiving that,” said Lt. Gov. Austin Davis, who serves as Chair of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD). “From our work to streamline the pardon application process to this new, historic indigent defense funding— the Shapiro-Davis Administration is taking bold steps to ensure Pennsylvanians are given the tools to move their lives forward in a positive direction. I want to thank Senator Lisa Baker, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Representative Napoleon Nelson, who championed funding for indigent defense and were instrumental in getting this bipartisan legislation across the finish line.”
Funding is directed to PCCD for the creation of a new Indigent Defense Grant Program which will be used for training and grants to expand and improve the quality and availability of indigent defense services currently provided at the county level. The grant program will be determined by the newly established Indigent Defense Advisory Committee, which was created within PCCD.
This Committee will also be responsible for proposing minimum standards for the delivery of effective indigent defense services for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, as well as adopting standards for research, county data collection, and use of case management systems by county public defender offices. The Indigent Defense Advisory Committee is also charged with obtaining and analyzing relevant datasets related to the availability and effectiveness of indigent defense services and establishing a training library with statewide continuing legal education courses, training programs, and resources for attorneys who provide these services. The Committee must develop a report with recommendations for improvement of the indigent defense system throughout Pennsylvania within two years, and biennially thereafter.
Visit the PCCD website to stay up to date on the latest news related to this funding.
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