Public Policy Institute
Research Area: Criminal Justice
In 2013, PPI began a project with the Marion County Public Defender Agency (MCPDA) to develop a screening instrument that would determine the indigency status of criminal defendants entering the Marion County criminal courts system. At the time, Indiana criminal court judges made these decisions regarding the assignment of public defenders to indigent defendants with few if any systematic standards regarding the definition of indigency.
There are some basic questions to be answered when developing a screening instrument and procedures, including what factors should be considered (e.g., wages only, assets, debt, etc.); what information should be collected; who should collect the information; and where and when information should be collected. In addition, an estimate of the general costs of a systematic indigency screening program is needed.
The primary tasks of the project include: (1) identify best practices currently applied to indigency determination in criminal courts, (2) use these best practices to design a standardized screening instrument for use in Marion County, (3) implement the indigency screen as a pilot project in a selected number of Marion County Courts over a 30-day period, and (4) develop a report describing the procedures followed and the results of the pilot implementation, including an assessment of the potential costs of implementing a systematic indigency screening program within Marion County.