About the Initiative: Turning Principles into Practice
The Smart Defense Initiative is part of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Smart Suite of criminal justice programs that include Smart Pretrial, Smart Policing, Smart Supervision, and Smart Prosecution. The Smart Suite supports criminal justice professionals in building evidence-based, data-driven criminal justice strategies that combine the expertise of researchers and practitioners for maximum, sustained, and measurable impact.
The purpose of Smart Defense is to improve the quality of public defense delivery systems guided by the Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System, promulgated by the American Bar Association (ABA). The ABA Ten Principles provide the fundamental building blocks for implementing quality public defense representation. These principles address defenders’ appropriate function, workload, resources, training, and quality, and have been recognized by Attorney General Eric Holder “as [an] essential guidepost for ensuring that our indigent defense efforts are as effective – and as efficient – as possible.”
The U.S. Department of Justice has long recognized the importance of quality public defense to a fair justice system. Today, despite the decades passed since the landmark decision in Gideon v. Wainwright and the important decisions that followed, recognizing the right to counsel in juvenile and misdemeanor cases, the Constitutional right to counsel is not yet fully realized.
The Smart Defense Initiative is one more step forward to achieving equal justice under law, whereby the amount of money you have does not dictate the quality of justice you receive.