June 13, 2005

Mostly saying hooray for our side

As you know, I'm always right there on the cutting edge of criminal justice trends, so Friday afternoon I'm covering Mental Health Court, and Sunday morning I'm reading this in the local paper:

Specialty courts help cut costs - Innovations to break criminal cycle add to system's savings.

(This would also explain why that photographer was following Bob around:

Either that, or that '70's orange upholstery is coming back into style.)

It's a good article about the problem-solving court approach, and other changes being adopted by the justice system here in the South Sound. By lumping the changes in the Office of Assigned Counsel together with Drug Court and Mental Health Court, readers could get the impression that public defenders are problem solvers, innovators and dollar savers too. That's not bad publicity:

While hiring more public defenders and running programs such as the county's drug court and mental health court take money from the general fund, officials say the changes are paying for themselves. A $400,000 investment in new attorneys already has been made up in savings at the Office of Assigned Counsel. The office added five attorneys to its seven-attorney staff this winter, along with two new support staffers.

Including you-know-who.

Here's a graph from the Daily O of the shift in indigent defense spending:

"We're spending less money and giving better service," says OAC director Sally Harrison. How bad can that be?