2012 National Survey of Indigent Defense Systems (NSIDS)

Sponsored by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the 2012 National Survey of Indigent Defense Systems (NSIDS) will gather data about the manner by which defense services are provided to indigent people accused of crime for which they may be jailed or imprisoned under states' laws in each county and state throughout the United States. Emphasis will be placed on collecting information pertaining to office expenditures and number and type of cases handled as well as size and salaries of indigent defense staff.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court has mandated that the States provide counsel for indigent persons accused of crime, documentation on the nature of these services is not readily available. States have devised various systems, rules of organization, and funding mechanisms for indigent defense systems. In essence, each State has adopted its own approach for providing counsel to indigent defendants. The administration of adult trial-level indigent defense services varies by jurisdiction and may be carried out by a state, a county, a city, an individual judge, or by every possible combination of these.  And just as administration of services varies by jurisdiction, so too does the source of funds to provide those services.  Furthermore, each jurisdiction (whether state, county, city, or individual judge) determines the delivery method by which it provides representation. 

This project is the first of its kind to collect census level information on all forms of indigent programs including public defender offices, legal aid programs, and systems that provide indigent defense through either contractual agreements with private law firms or the assignment of private counsel.  NORC along with its partners, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) and the National Association of Counties (NACo) will develop an accurate and comprehensive universe of respondents and collect the data using a multi-mode design that applies web, mail, and phone administration.

Findings from this project will be used throughout the criminal justice community as it seeks to better understand the nature of indigent defense services operating throughout the United States.