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The public defender: Overworked and understaffed (RI)

Friday, December 15, 2017

The public defender: Overworked and understaffed


"PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A national study of the Rhode Island Public Defenders’ Office has found “profound and dramatic understaffing” that leaves lawyers laboring under excessive workloads and unable to dedicate the recommended time to many cases, including those in which defendants are facing up to life behind bars.

The study — named The Rhode Island Project: A Study of the Rhode Island Public Defender System and Attorney Workload Standards — documents staggering caseloads that cause public defenders to sometimes spend less than half the time on cases that is recommended under national standards.

“Meaningful representation can’t happen when lawyers have too many cases,” said Bonnie Hoffman, director of public defense reform and training at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “The numbers tell us the attorneys don’t have the time they should have to handle these cases.”

The study, undertaken by the accounting firm BlumShapiro, the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants and NACDL, was conducted at the request of the state Public Defenders’ Office..."

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