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Indigent Defense

Honoring constitutional obligations

The Constitution guarantees the right to counsel. When someone can’t afford a lawyer, the state must provide one. This is indigent defense.

State leaders have determined that an effective indigent defense system provides access to qualified counsel and is actively managed and independent. Our programs, research, and data help stakeholders explore and implement practices and policies to advance these goals.

Read our research, explore our projects, and use our model tools—we’re here to help.

Explore our Measuring Justice Dashboard to uncover patterns, evaluate your county, and drill down on specific areas.


Start out strong

The first step in any effort: understand the problem. Our legal and empirical research helps unpack the system’s complexities. Our work organizes the data, pinpoints opportunities and summarizes end results—because the more you know about an issue, the more effectively you can solve it.

North Carolina 2024 Public Defender Expansion
Briefing Paper

Pilot Projects

Find what’s working

Right now in North Carolina, we’re helping stakeholders—including law enforcement leaders, court officials, county leaders, and others—develop and implement effective reforms. Our work informs policy choices, helping stakeholders innovate solutions and evaluate outcomes. Explore these projects to see what’s possible.

Bail Reform in North Carolina—Pilot Project: Early Involvement of Counsel
Blog Post


Get up and running

Our legal and evidence-based tools—forms, flowcharts, templates, implementation plans, and more—help you tailor your approach to your community. Whether you need a single tool or a comprehensive model policy, we have the roadmaps to support you.

“Lack of data is an obstacle to improving public defense systems. Good data informs decision making and leads to better results.”