Over 80 percent of state criminal defendants qualify for a public defender in the United States. The government spends $2.3 billion on this but spends more than $200 billion annually on criminal justice in general. Something has to give. Well actually, it already has. The shortfalls in the state budgets have created chaos in the criminal justice system. Lawyers in Louisianan, faced with the prospect of defending indigent defendants charged with capital crimes are turning them away because their offices are understaffed and they lack funding. These are not isolated occurrences, public defenders across the nation report that they have only minutes sometimes to meet with poor people they have been assigned to represent.
Meanwhile, prosecutors are receiving larger-then-ever budgets to arm their staff with plenty of manpower and state of the art technological equipment. These same prosecutors also enjoy the benefit of having police officers and agents of all types to complete the investigation process. Billions and billions of dollars are spent annually on preparation costs for prosecuting cases. A fraction of one percent is allotted towards investigation costs for the defense. This is a critical factor in the criminal defense business: It is estimated that more than 45% of criminal cases end in dispositions favorable to the defendant when a quality investigation has been completed. The problem is one of time and money. Since everyone always wins when justice prevails, additional funding should be a no- brainer — not only for additional defenders but also for collateral costs for investigations. The playing field desperately needs to level.