A report was released last week on the judicial treatment of youths regarding their legal care, fees paid lawyers, caseloads, etc.
Young people in the criminal justice system could benefit from responsible representation. this is not currently provided by Los Angeles County.
These youths are inadequately represented making them prone to a repetitive cycle of recidivism, homelessness,unemployment,etc.
Inadequate representation wastes tax payers’ money and costs more to the tax payer in the long run.
At issue is the provision of public defenders for young people who can’t afford private representation.
Los Angeles County was the first county to open up a public defender’s office over 100 years ago.
In cases where there is a conflict, a private county-approved lawyer was appointed who was paid on an hourly basis.
The county uses a different method for adult defendants. They created an Alternate Public Defender’s Office which has the reputation of performing very well.
The Board of Supervisors chose to hire private attorneys at a flat rate for juvenile offenders in the 1990’s.
Juveniles represented by these lawyers are more often sentenced to camps which cost tax payers more money in the long run.
Those represented by public defenders fared much better as a result of doing community service and service in the school system.
New contracts for these attorneys will begin on November 1 of this year.
Hopes are that more responsible representation will be put into place at that time.
Discussion as to how to replace the flat fee system include creating a system similar to that used with adults; implementing an alternative public defender.
The Board of Supervisors will take up the issue Tuesday.
It seems that a change in the system is necessary to intervene on behalf of young offenders at their most impressionable age and at the point in their lives when a debacle can be the most devastating.
Intervention can be crucial at this time. Public Defenders and Alternative Public Defenders are provided for indigent defendants who cannot otherwise afford representation.
These youths are at the most vulnerable point in their lives.
Flat fees only encourage poor representation and services and large caseloads, meaning that it is the youths themselves who suffer.
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Source Los Angeles Times
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