Issue: Public Defender System

Missouri's Public Defender System is underfunded and overburdened. It reached a crisis point back in 2005, and since then, it has deteriorated further. Funding is abysmal. Compared with other states' public defender system, Missouri ranks 49th in per capita spending. Outside experts on the justice system have evaluated Missouri's Public Defender System and have warned repeatedly that it is on the verge of collapse.

The Missouri State Public Defender Commission established guidelines for local offices to follow that determine when they can quit accepting new cases because they are unable to handle the current caseload. Several offices regularly reach the threshold for cutting off services, and they have temporarily quit accepting cases. The right to counsel for criminal matters is, of course, a constitutional right, that cannot be ignored.