San Francisco – The need for a well-resourced and comprehensive public defense system was made evident in a study released yesterday by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) indicating that African Americans and Hispanics are over-represented in the criminal justice system and more likely to require a public defender than their Caucasian counterparts.

“This report demonstrates that one of the only protections we have against the disparate treatment of people of color in the criminal justice system is a competent and effective public defender’s office,” Public Defender Jeff Adachi said.

The study, Created Equal: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the U.S. Criminal Justice System, indicated that African Americans were detained pre-trial at 5.2 times the rate for Caucasian defendants and were 4.7 times as likely to have a public defender. Hispanics were detained at 2.6 times the rate for Caucasians and were 2.1 times as likely to have a public defender.

The study also found that people of color are more often sentenced to prison, are given longer sentence lengths, and are less likely to be given probation than Caucasians.

“People of color are more likely to have to rely on public defenders, and if we want a system that is fair, we need to have a strong and well-resourced public defender’s office. We can’t have one system for the poor and another for the rich,” Adachi said.

A December 2006 report by the San Francisco Chronicle found that African Americans in San Francisco are arrested for felonies at nearly twice the rate in Sacramento and Fresno, three times the rate in San Jose, Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego, and four times the rate in Oakland.

According to the NCCD study, the California Department of Justice reports that African Americans represent 6% of California’s population and 17% of those arrested; Hispanics represent 36% of California’s general population and 40% of those arrested; and Caucasians represent 43% of California’s population and 37% of arrests.

A copy of the study can be found at the National Council on Crime and Delinquency website:

The mission of the Public Defender’s office is to provide vigorous, effective, competent and ethical legal representation to persons who are accused of crime and cannot afford to hire an attorney. Established in 1921, the San Francisco Public Defender has a long, proud history of providing top-notch representation to its clients, and championing programs that help people turn their lives around.



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