Year End Report: Demand For Public Defenders Remains High Amid Economic Crisis

San Francisco, CA— Unable to afford private attorneys amid a continuing recession, 28,000 San Franciscans turned to the city’s public defender last year –a trend that shows little sign of slowing.

Felony cases handled by the San Francisco Public Defender’s office rose 21 percent over the past two years, according to the office’s Annual Report and 2010 Calendar, released today.  The document may be viewed by logging on to: http://sfpublicdefender.org/media/2010/01/annual-report-2009/

“In this economy, few people can afford private attorneys,” said San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi.  “As the need for our services increased, we also suffered severe budget and staffing cuts.  However, we have continued to do our very best to provide San Franciscans with the legal representation guaranteed by the Constitution.”

The Public Defender’s office has published its annual report each year since 2003.  The calendar features documentary-style images and true-life accounts of courtroom victories, innovative programs, and the office’s battle for funding parity.  Highlights include:

  • 46.5 percent of trials resulting in no conviction, compared to 38.5 percent in 2008.
  • $5 million in incarceration costs saved by the office’s Reentry Unit by placing individuals in vocational, educational, substance abuse and mental health programs.
  • $2.7 million in annual net savings to taxpayers generated by the Behavioral Health Court.
  • $3,000 vs. $356: Hiring a private attorney to handle a driving under the influence case vs. the cost to taxpayers for the Public Defender’s office to handle the same case.
  • 3:1 vs. 5:1: Recommended number of attorneys assigned to a single defense investigator vs. actual number of attorneys assigned to a single defense investigator.

These statistics and many more are included in the Public Defender’s office 2009 Annual Report and 2010 Calendar, which is not printed at public expense.  The Public Defender’s office is one of the few city departments that provide printed annual reports to the public.

Adachi noted that the report reflects his office’s commitment to transparency and gives the public a bird’s-eye view of the criminal justice system.

“People often think of what they see on Law and Order when they think of the court system.  Our annual report shows how hard most people struggle to get justice,” he said.

Volunteers from the Public Defender’s office will hand out the reports in San Francisco neighborhoods throughout January.  On Thursday and Friday of this week, volunteers will pass out free calendars between 9 a.m.-10 a.m. at the Hall of Justice, 850 Bryant St. To find other locations and times, log onto sfpublicdefender.org.

The public may also pick up the free calendar at the front desk of the San Francisco Public Defender’s office, 555 Seventh St. (between Brannan and Bryant streets.)

Note to Media: High Resolution Images of Calendar Pages Available

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