Right to Counsel National Campaign’s Theory of Change

The theory of change (TOC) for the Right to Counsel National Campaign (R2C) was designed to map out the steps needed to achieve the campaign’s overall goal of ensuring that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel is meaningfully implemented throughout the country. 

Four Tenets 

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

2.     Everyone has the constitutional right to an attorney. 

3.     The Sixth Amendment right to counsel ensures equality and equity. 

4.     Public defense services are delivered within the framework of the American Bar Association's (ABA) Ten Principles. 

Existing External Conditions

1.     A lack of awareness exists about a) what the right to counsel means, and b) that it isn't being upheld. 

2.     Public defense is often left out of the criminal justice reform conversation. 

3.     Public defenders often operate with little and too few resources to provide effective assistance of counsel. 

4.     There is a lack of consistency across the delivery of public defense nationwide. 

Four Phases and Benchmarks

Each phase of the TOC has benchmarks that R2C is measuring its progress against and by which consortium members can track their own progress. 

 

Phase One: Information Gathering 

Gather information and share with Right to Counsel National Consortium members 

  • Hold Right to Counsel Consortium meetings with consortium members and steering committee members.

  • Hold conference calls to share information with committee members and disseminate information to other system actors.

  • Gather data, documents, and reports regarding criminal justice and public defense reform efforts.

  • Identify new consortium members.

  • Conduct in-depth interviews with consortium members to determine shared priorities and helpful talking points.

Share information beyond consortium members 

  • Present at conferences and other relevant meetings.

  • Conduct webinars.

  • Recruit new consortium members.

Phase Three: Implementation

Encourage structural change, including:

  • Legislation

  • Policies

  • ABA (or state) guidelines in all local, state, and federal jurisdictions 

Work toward cultural change, including:

  • Increase public awareness so that all Americans know that the right to counsel stems from the US Constitution.

  • Build a shared commitment among all system actors to uphold this constitutional right.

  • Change perceptions of public defense service providers, so that they are no longer identified as “lazy,” “not real lawyers,” or “not committed.” 

  • See these positive descriptions reflected in media portrayals of public defense service providers.

Phase Two: Advocacy and Outreach 

  • Hold annual R2C meetings.

  • Recruit new consortium members.

  • Build partnerships outside of the consortium.

  • Develop right to counsel champions.

  • Develop and implement a social media strategy.

  • Document reform movements, such as general criminal justice reforms and public defense-specific reforms.

  • Hold public focus groups and conduct opinion polling.

  • Convene system actor focus groups.

  • Continue to present at conferences and webinars.

  • Develop and release public and system actor communication toolkits.

  • R2C champions to introduce new legislation.

  • R2C champions to introduce new state guidelines.

Phase Four: Adoption 

  • Everyone has access to an effective attorney with the time, knowledge, experience, and resources available to provide a quality defense.

  • Consequences are enforced if the Sixth Amendment right to counsel is not upheld. 

  • Consequences are enforced if ABA (or state) guidelines are not followed.