Messaging for County Officials

Donte Blue  (center), Deputy Director, Contra Costa County Office of Reentry and Justice, CA, with  Diane Aguinaga  (right) and  Priya Sarathy-Jones  (left)

Donte Blue (center), Deputy Director, Contra Costa County Office of Reentry and Justice, CA, with Diane Aguinaga (right) and Priya Sarathy-Jones (left)

Key Messages

  • Fairness requires that all accused persons have access to competent legal attorney to represent them.

  • Guaranteeing that every person accused of a crime has the right to a lawyer is a fundamental American right that is written into our Constitution.

  • A lack of funding in many places has resulted in people accused of minor crimes waiting in jail as long as six months to have a lawyer assigned to them and a hearing held.

  • Today in many states the public defenders are very overburdened, sometimes with caseloads so high that a public defender can devote only a couple of hours to each case.

The county officials believe that the right to counsel is a matter of fairness and a right guaranteed by the Constitution. Messages that adhere to these values would be the most effective in reaching out to the county officials. In addition, messages that speak to the consequences of the lack of funding for public defense, such as long wait times to see a lawyer and inadequate representation because of unreasonable caseloads for public defenders, would also appeal to these officials, as long as they did not cite specific days waiting in jail or hours spent on each case. Officials quibbled over the numbers but found the essential messages persuasive.