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Funding in the Federal Criminal Justice System

The lack of adequate funding in the federal criminal justice system is endangering due process and fundamental fairness in our country. Federal trial judges (District Court judges) have recently written Vice President Joe Biden asking for his assistance in obtaining additional funds. Federal public defenders, the real heroes of the federal justice system, have had their funds cut drastically. Federal prosecutors have always had every advantage over federal public defenders and now those advantages are even greater. Prosecutors have more money available, since their investigators are federal agents. Prosecutors have more money for demonstrative evidence, which is used in federal trials. And they have more money for research attorneys, paralegals, staff, etc.

The federal lock ups are overcrowded because too many defendants awaiting trial and presumed innocent by law, are being detained either without bail being set or because the amount necessary to bond out of custody is set so high that they are un able to post a bond and be released.

The federal jails offer little medical care for the many inmates, including elderly inmates, who desperately need medical care. The conditions in the federal lock ups are far less than ideal, especially considering that almost all of the inmates in the jail are awaiting trial or disposition of their cases and have not been convicted of the crime or crimes for which they are being held. Punishment should come after a conviction – not before! Of course, there is enormous cost in incarcerating persons. So, one obvious way to ensure more fairness in the federal justice system, and to save money, is to have more defendants awaiting trial released on bail.

There are so many special conditions of bail which are intended ensure the public safety and guarantee that a defendant will appear in court, that it is a rare case when United States citizens should not be released pending trial. For example, travel can be restricted, curfews can be imposed, and GPS ankle bracelets can be ordered to be worn by persons released prior to their case. There can be reporting requirements mandating that the person released report in person to a federal probation office at specific intervals such as twice a week, etc.; drug testing; psychological counseling; a requirement that the person released not possess any deadly weapons or use a computer if allegations include a crime involving a computer.

The federal government has serious financial problems. Unfortunately, indigent federal defendants and federal public defenders who defend them are bearing the brunt of this situation in the federal criminal justice system. It is unfortunate, especially considering that people in this country are presumed to be innocent unless and until they are convicted of a crime.

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