ORAL HISTORY OF KENTUCKY'S PUBLIC DEFENSE SYSTEM RELEASED: PUBLIC DEFENSE PROVIDES HIGH PUBLIC VALUE
FRANKFORT, KY (March 14, 2017) – Today, 45 years ago, House Bill 461 sponsored by Representatives Kenton, Graves and Swinford passed the Kentucky Senate 26-5 and Kentucky’s statewide public defense system was born. It implemented the right to counsel guaranteed to all facing a loss of liberty. The right to counsel stands above all constitutional rights because counsel enables the ability to assert all other rights. This week also is another important anniversary. On March 18 fifty-four years ago the United States Supreme Court landmark ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963) declared that the right to counsel was required for indigents facing a loss of liberty and that the state must provide counsel to indigents.
To commemorate the state’s implementation of the constitutional right to counsel for indigents, the Department of Public Advocacy and the Kentucky Historical Society today release an oral history of the Kentucky public defense system.
Mount Vernon attorney Jerry Cox, Chair of the Public Advocacy Commission, said the public value of public defense is extraordinary, “There are substantial financial benefits to counties, the state, and Kentucky taxpayers when public defense systems are properly funded. Public defenders who are competent, who have manageable workloads, and who have professional independence make certain that the rights guaranteed by our Constitution are protected and ensure that no one’s liberty is taken unless proven guilty. Public defenders lower costly incarceration rates by being present at first appearances and advocating for pretrial release; advocating for reduced sentences based on the facts of the case; developing alternative sentencing options that avoid incarceration and provide treatment; assisting clients upon adjudication with reentry needs including, employment and housing; and preventing expensive wrongful convictions. It all began in 1972 and has continued to make progress through the leadership and support of many good Kentuckians.”