A request to the Governor has been made by the Director of the Missouri State Public Defender System for an additional $10 million in this year’s budget to hire 50 more attorneys and 20 support staff.
Michael Barrett said some offices have two-and-a-half times the number of cases they can handle with their current staff. He said Missourians deserve adequate representation.
“For years, we’ve been going to the Governor and the Legislature saying we just don’t have enough resources by way of the number of attorneys we have to deal with the 70,000 plus cases that we have every year representing poor Missourians who are charged with a criminal defense,” said Barrett. “Everyone in our offices across the state are over 100% capacity. We have many offices that are over 200-250% capacity.”
Barrett said inadequate defense has an effect on the prison population.
“In Missouri, the state prison population is artificially increasing. By that, I mean the number of non-violent and first-time offenders is really growing our prisons beyond its capacity,” said Barrett.
He said if the Public Defender System continues to be underfunded, the state will have to build a new prison. Barrett says there are currently 376 public defenders in Missouri.