Graphic: How do Missouri's public defenders stack up?
Let's say you somehow got involved with a bad group of people and found yourself on the wrong side of the law. You end up getting charged with a crime and, as it happens, you make so little money that you actually qualify for a court-appointed attorney, a public defender.
As we reported recently, the public defender system in Missouri is underfunded and the attorneys say they are severely overworked. Just how overworked?
We Live Here decided to break it down for you with this little state-by-state graphic that shows how much Missouri is spending compared to other states. Are we in the worst shape? Not when you look at spending per person, according to Department of Justice statistics.
But we do know that Missouri public defenders spend significantly less time preparing their cases than is recommended. For example, the American Bar Association recommends lawyers spend 25 hours preparing for a class C felony such as possession of a controlled substance. The actual time public defenders reported preparing is 4.4 hours.
As you look at the numbers, it is important to remember that every state's public defender system operates a little different. Some public defenders are funded on a county-by-county basis with no central office that sets standard wages and practices. Other states, like Missouri, do have a centralized public defender office which helps to streamline costs.