Overview Prosecutors, judges, defense, and court personnel are looking for new approaches to ensuring the fair administration and adjudicating offenders that will not only clear cases and decrease dockets, but also lower recidivism. Throughout the country, courts are recognizing that crimes involving violent and nonviolent offenders require a special effort to ensure that these offenders are held accountable, but returned to the community with the services and supervision they need to stop offending. Additionally, state and local prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges face the challenge of meeting increasing needs with limited resources. While local court personnel will decide how to meet those needs, BJA is committed to providing resources, tools, and support to help them test their ideas.
Wrongful Conviction On December 3, 2013, OJP, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Innocence Project announced the release of the National Summit on Wrongful Convictions: Building a Systemic Approach to Prevent Wrongful Convictions report. The National Policy Summit on Wrongful Convictions gathered 75 subject matter experts from all key disciplines to address and examine the causes of and solutions to wrongful convictions across the entire spectrum of the justice system. The summit report includes 30 recommendations for making rightful arrests, correcting wrongful arrests, leveraging technology and forensic science, and re-examining closed cases. This report lays a foundation for required changes in investigative protocols, policies, training, supervision, and assessment.
Right to Counsel (Indigent Defense) The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has long recognized the importance of quality public defense to a fair justice system. A fair and equitable criminal justice system requires representation by skilled defense counsel with adequate resources at every stage of the criminal process. Today, despite the decades that have gone by since the landmark decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, and the important decisions that have followed recognizing the right to counsel in juvenile and misdemeanor cases, Gideon has yet to be fully realized.
To help jurisdictions realize Gideon’s promise and strengthen state and local public defense delivery systems, DOJ—through BJA—has invested in many defense improvement initiatives, including the following:
American University (AU), in partnership with the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA), provides training and technical assistance (TTA) to public defense providers to enhance their ability to adhere to the Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System, designated by the American Bar Association (ABA). To request TTA e-mail email@example.com.
The project launched with a national survey of public defense providers to obtain their perspectives on the degree to which they are able to adhere to each of the Ten Principles, including selected "benchmarks" associated with each of the principles, obstacles encountered in adhering to the principles, promising practices they have developed, and areas for which technical assistance would be useful. The survey responses provide the foundation of a multipronged plan for the project's technical assistance services. Any public defense provider can request help from AU to increase their capacity to adhere to the Ten Principles. The project's services include:
Additionally, AU is working with BJA to launch a national campaign to educate and engage policymakers, criminal justice takeholders, and the community on the critical importance of meaningfully carrying out the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel. The goal of this campaign is to spearhead a national conversation on establishing effective public defense delivery systems throughout the country. The Right to Counsel National Campaign will have its kickoff event in Washington, D.C. on November 10, 2015.
Bronx Defenders (BXD) maintains the Center for Holistic Defense that provides support for public defender offices nationwide, replicating and mentoring Holistic Defense. Since 2010, 19 offices have been awarded as mentoring sites. BXD has developed an assessment tool composed of four pillars of Holistic Defense to assist both small and large jurisdictions with implementation. Over the past five years, BXD developed a documentary online about Holistic Defense in conjunction with live presentations, and the documentary has been integrated into Holistic Defense TTA. Most notably, BXD developed and launched a law school curriculum in a full-time class with Columbia Law School, the first of its kind. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gideon’s Promise (GP) partners with public defender offices to build a community of committed and passionate attorneys to drive indigent defense reform across America. Their comprehensive model for change emphasizes client-centered values, ongoing trial advocacy training, mentoring, leadership development, and community building. GP works with BJA in the following areas:
For more information e-mail email@example.com.
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) is a multidimensional project that includes:
Seattle University and the Sixth Amendment Center maintain the Systematic Defender Standards Project that works to increase the number of jurisdictions meeting one or more of the ABA Ten Principles through a combination of training, technical assistance, public education, and policy development. They are currently (as of September 2015) working in Mississippi, Michigan, Nevada, and Utah. For more information e-mail Elly.Kalfus@sixthamendment.org.
The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office developed a practitioner checklist to help guide attorneys through key moments in a case. The checklist is a series of benchmarks to ensure attorneys are able to competently represent their clients, while avoiding costly errors. It is based on ideas from The Checklist Manifesto, a nonfiction book by Atul Gawande that documents the value of checklists for complex and overworked systems, such as the legal system. It is being piloted in two offices in California. For a copy of the checklist, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Evaluation Information and Tools BJA's Center for Research Partnerships and Program Evaluation provides visitors with information on practitioner-researcher parternships, performance measures, logic models, program evaluation, and other important information to devise solutions to improve the quality, quantity, and equity of criminal justice and public safety services.
Research The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) — the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice — is dedicated to improving knowledge and understanding of crime and justice issues through science. NIJ provides objective and independent knowledge and tools to reduce crime and promote justice, particularly at the state and local levels. Access the NIJ site for further information and access to research materials.
Statistics OJP’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) collects, analyzes, publishes, and disseminates information on crime, criminal offenders, victims of crime, and the operation of justice systems at all levels of government. These data are critical to federal, state, and local policymakers in combating crime and ensuring that justice is both efficient and evenhanded. See the BJS site for access to data on a variety of topics.
Training The Events section of the BJA site contains information about upcoming and ongoing trainings and other events related to courts and other justice topics.
BJA provides training and technical assistance support to the Community Prosecution grantees through the National Center for Community Prosecution and the Center for Court Innovation.The National Judicial College provides educational and professional development opportunities to more than 58,000 judges worldwide. BJA-sponsored courses include children as adults in court, bench skills for judges, health care and aging, disabilities and co-occurring disorders, and the role of families in the justice system.For information on all BJA-sponsored training and technical assistance, visit to BJA's National Training and Technical Assistance Center (NTTAC).
Pretrial Research Summaries:
Bail Decisionmaking by Lindsey Devers, Ph.D., CSR, Incorporated
Identifying and Serving the Needs of Pretrial Defendants by Sean Goliday, Ph.D., CSR, Incorporated
Plea and Charge Bargaining by Lindsey Devers, Ph.D., CSR, Incorporated
Pretrial Risk Assessment by Charles Summers, Ph.D and Tim Willis, Ph.D., CSR, Incorporated
Pretrial Diversion Programs by Catherine Camilletti, Ph.D., CSR, Incorporated
For statistical information, go to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) website.
Pretrial Research Summaries:
For statistical information, go to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) website.
The Office of Justice Programs has awarded more than $376 million in grant funding to enhance state, local and tribal law enforcement operations and reinforce public safety efforts in jurisdictions across the United States. Several BJA programs are included in the announcement, including more than $252 million in Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program funding awards, $40 million in Sexual Assault Kit Initiative funding awards, and more. Read the press release to learn more.
The FY 2020 CTAS opportunity provides federally recognized tribes and tribal consortia an opportunity to apply for funding to aid in developing a comprehensive and coordinated approach to public safety and victimization. View the solicitation, access frequently asked questions, and view additional resources. Apply by: February 25, 2020.
The Attorney General has announced the launch of Project Guardian, a new initiative designed to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws across the country. Project Guardian will serve as a complementary effort to Project Safe Neighborhoods and will help to ensure effective use of Crime Gun Intelligence Centers and other efforts.
BJA awarded 13 grants totaling nearly $11 million under the Enhanced Collaborative Model to Combat Human Trafficking: Supporting Law Enforcement's Role program. Learn about these and other Department of Justice human trafficking awards in the November 12, 2019 press release.
To assist potential applicants interested in applying for funding opportunities, BJA has hosted several solicitation-specific webinars as well as Grant Applicant Education Series webinars. Visit the BJA Funding Webinars page to learn about upcoming webinars and to access presentation files for and YouTube links to watch previously held webinars.
In an October 3, 2019, press release, Attorney General Barr highlights how the revitalization and enhancement of Project Safe Neighborhoods two years ago has helped reduce violence in communities and improve overall public safety.
Conducting Unexplained Child Death Investigations
Navigating the Complexities of Mental Health Cases
Location: San Diego,
National District Attorneys Association Capital Conference
Developing a Community Response to Child Sex Trafficking and Exploitation Specialized Training
Strengthening Sovereign Responses to Sex Trafficking in Indian Country Conference
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Front-End Diversion Initiative
A preadjudication diversion program designed to divert juveniles with mental health needs away from the juvenile justice system through specialized supervision and case management.
Indigent Defense for Homicide Cases (Philadelphia, Penn.)
Indigent defense involves the constitutionally mandated free representation of individuals accused of crimes who are unable to afford private representation. Since 1993, every fifth murder case is sequentially assigned at the preliminary arraignment to be represented by attorneys from the Defender Association of Philadelphia.
Maine Juvenile Drug Treatment Courts
Court supervised, post-plea (but pre-final disposition) drug diversion programs that provide comprehensive community-based treatment services to juvenile offenders and their families.
Minneapolis Center for Victim-Offender Mediation
A restorative justice program that provides juvenile offenders and their victims the opportunity to meet face-to-face in the presence of a mediator to discuss the offense and establish a plan for the future.
Adolescent Diversion Project (Michigan State University)
A strengths-based, university-led program that diverts arrested youth from formal processing in the juvenile justice system and provides them with community-based services.
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Center for Court Innovation
National Association of Drug Court Professionals/National Drug Court Institute
National District Attorney's Association (NDAA)
National Center for State Courts
U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ): Office for Access to Justice
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