Reporting the state of indigent defense in 254 Texas counties through a new web portal.
Texas population: 26,642,612
Non-Capital Felony Trial-Level Cases: 192,261
Misdemeanor Trial-Level Cases: 223,045
Juvenile Trial-Level Cases: 45,340
Appeals Cases: 3,023
Capital Cases: 474
Each of the Texas’ 254 counties is largely responsible for its own method of structuring and funding public defense. Most counties place this function in the courts and county executives, not in full-time defenders. In 2001, Texas enacted the Fair Defense Act and created the Texas Indigent Defense Commission (TIDC) to provide financial and technical support to counties so that they meet local needs while complying with state and Constitutional standards for quality defense. TIDC collects and reports a wide variety of data from the counties, but does not have an effective way to analyze these data and communicate their meaning through its current website. Since indigent defense in Texas is mostly administered by officials who are not public defenders, context is critical to making sense of TIDC’s data.
TIDC and its research partners are developing an online data portal that will provide detailed and easy-to-navigate information on indigent defense systems in all of Texas’ 254 counties for use by multiple audiences, including TIDC, the public, courts, elected officials, funders, bar associations, and the advocate community. Performance indicators will be explained in reference to state and national standards, and counties will be informed about how they can improve their performance.
Data Collection & Research
The Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M University is working with TIDC and committees of State and National Advisors to define performance indicators for quality representation, locate data sources, and design an online portal that will be functional for a variety of audiences. PPRI is beta testing the portal in select counties before it is made publicly available in 2018.