Friday, April 1, 2011

Budget Cuts threaten to Gut Fledgling Reform

The Indigent Legal Services Office (ILS Office), which just got started with the appointment of a director in February of this year, will have an operational budget of only $1.5 million for FY 2011. This is half of the $3 million annual budget envisioned when the Office was created. Born of political compromise, couched in language claiming that a $1.5 million "increase" had been rejected, the budget shortfall threatens to hinder the ILS Office's reform efforts.

The Campaign for an Independent Public Defense Commission decried the cut in a press release on March 28. William Leahy, newly hired Director of the ILS Office and former head of the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services, also expressed his disappointment. He noted that the progress that the ILS Office and Board have already made in "working creatively and cooperatively with county executives and indigent defense leaders to improve the quality of that representation" will "require more adequate funding than has yet been provided,"

When the Campaign announced last November that the new ILS Board had met and begun a national search for a Director, we said, "Our efforts to see widespread meaningful change in the form of an Independent Public Defense Commission will continue." Those efforts include monitoring threats to advances made so far, like the budget cut reported here, and responding to those threats.

Jonathan E. Gradess, the Campaign Manager, discussed the cut on The Capitol Pressroom on WCNY radio on March 31.

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