Smart Defense Initiative Expands Evidence-Based Approaches to Public Defense

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Release Date: 
Monday, February 6, 2017


The U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance's (BJA) "Smart Suite" of programs brings science into criminal justice systems to identify what is working in the field to make communities safer, improve performance, and contain costs. While other criminal justice sectors have made tremendous advances in using research to target limited resources, there are almost no data about what works in public defense. This means that states spend over $1 billion on public defense each year without reliable information about what makes defenders effective.

To spur study in this area, in 2015, BJA added the Smart Defense Initiative to the Smart Suite portfolio, funding five sites that are improving their indigent defense systems and measuring the impact of their work on the performance of their justice systems. The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA), the national training and technical assistance provider for Smart Defense, is pleased to announce that BJA is expanding the Smart Defense Initiative to fund a portfolio of innovative, evidence-based approaches to strengthening public defense: 

  • Partnering with Police and Community in Contra Costa County
  • Modeling Defender-Researcher Collaboration
  • Connecting Defenders to Neighborhood Revitalization Projects
  • Strengthening Private Assigned Counsel
  • Leveraging Federal Resources for Defenders
  • Building Cross-Sector Criminal Justice Coalitions

View the Fact Sheet