Messaging for State Administering Agency (SAA) Personnel

 
 
Jeanie Vela , Former Regional Office Administrator, Colorado Public Defender’s Office, and former Chair of the Justice Assistance Grant Board in Colorado

Jeanie Vela, Former Regional Office Administrator, Colorado Public Defender’s Office, and former Chair of the Justice Assistance Grant Board in Colorado

Key Messages

  • Providing competent legal representation is necessary to prevent innocent people from going to jail.

  • 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.

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

The SAA administrators do not need to be motivated to believe in the importance of a sound public defense system or in the challenges faced by public defenders. Instead, effective messaging for this group should instill hope that they can convince politicians and the public that increasing funding for public defense is in everybody’s interest because it creates a fairer and less costly criminal justice system. This suggests including a message component asserting that in order to reduce overincarceration, save money in the long run, and protect innocent people from prison, we must include adequate funding for public defense. When presented with messages in support of increased funding for public defenders, the SAA administrators are drawn most to those that focus on upholding the Constitution, making the system fairer for all, and protecting the innocent from imprisonment. Several are particularly enthusiastic about the message explaining that a young person’s life can be ruined because of a conviction for a minor offense. With regard to language, some would replace the term “standards” with “best practices” so as not to sound overly prescriptive. Some also prefer the term “ensure” rather than “restore” the constitutional right to counsel.