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Bills To Create Public Defender Commission Re-Introduced

Michigan Capitol Building
WKAR File Photo

A set of bills was just introduced in the Legislature to begin the process of overhauling Michigan’s public defender system.

As The Michigan Public Radio Network’s Rick Pluta reports, Michigan’s public defense system is considered one of the worst in the country.

That’s because every county handles its own public defender appointments with no standards for experience or training, paying lawyers, or managing caseloads.

Marcella Westrate is with the Michigan Campaign for Justice. She says poorly trained and overburdened lawyers leads to innocent defendants going to prison while the real criminals go free, and mistakes in sentencing.

“So we do in Michigan end up with some people who end up serving a longer sentence than they should have,”  she says.

Westrate says that also adds to corrections costs. 

Governor Rick Snyder has made improving indigent defense in Michigan a priority. Westrate says she expects to see action on the legislation – which has bipartisan support -- later this year.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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