Bump Would Audit Publicly Funded Criminal Defense System
QUINCY, Mass. — Suzanne Bump, Democratic nominee for state auditor, said she would conduct a thorough audit of the performance of the Committee for Public Counsel Service and the Bar Advocate programs.
“The state’s district attorneys have raised an important issue. There may be a problem with the way the public’s money is being spent on criminal defense,” said Bump in a statement issued Oct. 14. “Defendants have rights, but taxpayers do too, and they shouldn’t be abused.”
The Massachusetts District Attorneys Association issued a statement last week pointing out that defense counsel budgets have received substantial increases year after year while the district attorneys have not received comparable resources. One of their proposed solutions is to increase the DAs' budgets. Supporters of defense counsel have countered that their compensation is appropriate.
“So far, this debate has generated a lot of angry words and several ideas about how the state can spend more money in this area,” said Bump. “It has not generated any ideas or proposals about how we can deliver these services more effectively and save the taxpayers’ money. There is a natural role here for the state auditor,” she said.
“I’ve talked about performance audits since I started this campaign. The issue raised by the District Attorneys perfectly illustrates my point,” Bump continued. “As state auditor I will look at the way we spend taxpayer dollars to provide constitutionally required counsel to criminal defendants, determine whether the system is being abused, and identify changes to be made to save taxpayers money and deliver better services.”
“Through a thorough performance audit we can discover why the budget for defense counsel rises astronomically every year while the crime rate has remained essentially flat. If caseloads are the same, then why do defense costs keep increasing?” Bump asked.
Bump outlined some possible solutions, including reducing reliance on private attorneys in favor of having more public defenders, building better controls into the programs to ensure that attorneys are billing their cases consistent with reasonable defense practices, and exploring ways of resolving cases without excessive and costly litigation while protecting public safety.
“We need to get to the proper resolution of cases in the most cost-effective manner,” said Bump. “When we do that, we will save money for taxpayers and free up the resources to invest in programs that reduce crime and enhance public safety.”
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