Campaign Goals

  • Start a national conversation and raise public awareness nationally of the importance of providing meaningful public defense services to criminal defendants who cannot afford a lawyer.
  • Spearhead broad-based initiatives by policy makers in multiple sectors, both within and outside of the criminal justice system, to take appropriate action.
  • Develop a strategic vision of the role of public defense that policymakers and criminal justice leaders integrate in the planning and operation of their public defense systems.


A fair and equitable criminal justice system requires representation by skilled defense counsel with adequate resources at every stage of the criminal process. 


In continued effort to support Department of Justice's Right to Counsel Initiative, Bureau of Justice Assistance, in collaboration with the Right to Counsel National Campaign Steering Committee, has convened a consortium comprising national, state, and local criminal justice stakeholders, community advocates, and policymakers to raise awareness of the important issues relevant to providing effective public defense services, and the systemic approach(es) -- involving both criminal justice and non-criminal justice stakeholders -- that are needed to ensure the effective delivery of public defense services and the right to counsel provided under the Sixth Amendment.

The consortium will develop no/low cost policy options and a strategic vision share with policymakers and criminal justice stakeholders at multiple levels, detailing how systems can ensure effective Right to Counsel, and, most important, the action planning necessary to implement this vision. In doing so, the Right to Counsel National Campaign will utilize a multi-faceted strategy, reaching out to policymakers and the public to orient them to the issues required for meaningfully implementing the Right to Counsel as well as to provide the defense service community with the necessary tools to meaningfully carry out this obligation.

The Right to Counsel National Campaign comprises of the following components: 

Planning Committee – a small group of national, state and local members guiding the campaign
Communications – a team assisting with Right to Counsel public relations research, including public opinion polling, focus groups and in-depth interviews
Messaging – a team consisting of the Planning Committee members and Communications team producing messaging for different criminal justice stakeholders and sectors of state and local policymakers
Marketing – a team providing support in developing marketing material for the National Campaign. 

The Right to Counsel National Campaign uses many of the methodologies common to other BJA technical assistance initiatives – problem definition, information gathering, strategic planning. However, what makes the Right to Counsel National Campaign unique is the added messaging and marketing components. Having the correct messaging for any particular group will be the key to making needed changes happen on a larger level.

The project will also utilize the website associated with the current Right to Counsel Technical Assistance Project,, to facilitate access by the field to the Right to Counsel National Campaign. The website provides a focused destination for those working with and/or interested in public defense issues, including state and local policymakers, a wide range of policy, operational, and other information, such as upcoming public defense events. A special segment of the website highlights relevant research underway.

Messaging Goals

  • Informing state and local criminal justice stakeholders on what the right to counsel entails and why it is important. 
  • Participation in national and other meetings of key criminal justice agencies/organizations on the importance of meaningful counsel for their respective disciplines.
  • Participation in meetings of other policy makers (legislators, county government officials, and others) to convey the importance of integrating the right to counsel in policy development. 
  • Continued broad outreach to criminal justice practitioners, policy makers, and other community stakeholders through online resources, including fact sheets, policy guidelines, and related tools that can be used to enhance the public's understanding of the importance of, and advocacy for, effective public defense services for everyone – not simply the defendant.