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Louisiana, which has the highest incarceration rate in the country, no longer provides public defenders to all its people accused of crimes; within months, over half its public defender offices are expected to become insolvent. “It’s a nightmare,” according to James Dixon, the chief Louisiana Public Defender. “You have people in jail that don’t have lawyers. It’s that basic.” The meltdown of the Louisiana public defender system makes it criminal to call it a justice system.
The U.S. Constitution requires that an accused person who lacks the means to hire a lawyer is provided one. Yet budget cuts are forcing public defenders to turn away defendants who have no other legal recourse.