Authors: Tony Fabelo
December 1, 2001
Wiener Center for Social Policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government
Today, many questions exist as to the effectiveness of some public defense systems. This paper establishes sets of questions to aid policymakers in thinking about the value and effectiveness of their public defense systems and includes several responses to the author's views. Because this field is complex and practices vary throughout the country, knowing where to start can be difficult. Instead of establishing specific outcomes, this paper serves as a guide -- a map of questions that policymakers should ask when deciding where to begin investigating public defense services, how to direct field researchers, and how to evaluate the information gathered. Two serious obstacles to improving public defense systems are the lack of data and lack of systemic policy analysis that state policymakers need to address the relevant issues concerning public defense. This paper proposes that policymakers and researchers develop a strategy for formulating relevant inquiries and then gathering current data to assess the effectiveness of a state's public defense system.
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