A state commission that's supposed to look for ways to fix Michigan's indigent defense system heard hours of testimony today.
The commission was told that ensuring better representation for people with court-appointed attorneys might also save taxpayers money in the long run.
"The states that tend to have the lowest (spending rates for indigent defense) are often the states that are on the highest end for per capita spending on incarceration and corrections," says David Carroll, a researcher with the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. "There hasn't been a comprehensive study to make that link, but it tends to be if you're not investing money on the front side, there are huge costs on the back side."
Michigan ranks fourth in the nation in per capita corrections spending, while it ranks 47th in what the state spends on indigent defense.
Carroll also says children in the juvenile justice system are among those most likely to suffer from not getting to see a lawyer in a timely fashion. He says that often results in kids getting pushed into the criminal justice system instead of getting help and treatment.