Friday, October 28, 2011

Budget Cuts Causing Havoc in Criminal Justice System

Deep budget cuts to courts, public defenders, district attorney's and attorney general offices are testing the criminal justice system across the country. In the most extreme cases, public defenders are questioning whether their clients are getting a fair shake, according to the Associated Press.

Exact figures on the extent of the cuts are hard to come by, but an American Bar Association report in August found that most states cut court funding 10 percent to 15 percent within the past three years. At least 26 states delayed filling open judgeships, while courts in 14 states were forced to lay off staff, said the report.

The National District Attorneys Association estimates that hundreds of millions of dollars in criminal justice funding and scores of positions have been cut amid the economic downturn, hampering the ability of authorities to investigate and prosecute cases, reported the Associated Press.

"It's extremely frustrating. Frankly, the people that do these jobs have a lot of passion. They don't do these jobs for the money. They are in America's courtrooms every day to protect victims and do justice," Scott Burns of the National District Attorneys Association told the Associated Press. "And they're rewarded with terminations, furloughs and cuts in pay."

The Associated Press cited examples of budget cuts impacting criminal justice in Maine, Georgia, California, New York and Alabama.  The long term effect of court related budget cuts has yet to be determined.  However, the impact will reach beyond the criminal justice system and have the potential to effect every American who reaches out to the court system.

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