The Champion

August 2009 , Page 22 

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Making the Case for Community Defense

By Heather H. Hall Celeste Lofton-Bagert

Innovation, Energy and $5,000 in Louisiana

In 2007, the Louisiana Legislature passed the Louisiana Public Defender Act, bringing comprehensive structural reform to a system long suffering from too many cases, too few resources, limited oversight, and pervasive political interference. The newly created Louisiana Public Defender Board (LPDB) and staff have the ability, diversity, and commitment not only to improve the delivery of public defense services, but also develop criminal justice policy that improves the entire justice system and elevates the public defense function to become an equal and valued partner among other agencies. This article describes a collaborative project between LPDB, the Louisiana Justice Coalition, and Public Defender Offices throughout Louisiana to create a “Legal Needs Assessment Instrument and Protocol.” The “Legal Needs Assessment” was conceived to create public and financial support for a defense delivery system that embraces a community-oriented model.

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