In Difficult Economy, Focus on Crime Reduction, Legal Services for Poor New Yorkers
The Senate Democratic Majority passed the FY2010-11 Public Protection and General Government Budget (PPGG), providing funding for essential crime reduction programs and legal services for poor New Yorkers. By enacting the fiscally and socially responsible PPGG (S6600C), the Senate Democratic Majority maintained its commitment to improve public safety, protect the most vulnerable, and empower law enforcement with the tools to keep our communities safe.
Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Mt. Vernon), Chair of the Senate Committee on Crime Victims, Crime & Corrections said, “It is a triumph for the State Senate to pass the Public Protection Budget that, one, creates a statewide entity to oversee the delivery of indigent legal services and, two, fully funds the $15 million appropriation in the Judiciary Budget for the state’s civil legal services program, in order to address the shortfall in funds in New York’s Interest on Lawyer Accounts (IOLA) and ensure meaningful access to justice. We have also restructured several of the agencies under the Public Protection umbrella which represents a cost savings but retains the integrity of those agencies and the services they provide.”
Senate Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee said, “Just as all New Yorkers deserve equal access to a sound system of justice, our law enforcement community deserves support to keep our streets safe and strong. By rooting out waste and cutting duplicative services, we were able to update and enhance our legal system and give those who place their lives on the line for our safety the tools and resources they need.”
This year’s PPGG Budget:
- Funds the Department of Correctional Services, Division of Criminal Justice Services, and Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, among other programs.
- Merges several entities to streamline services which will save taxpayers millions of dollars annually.
- Creates a statewide entity to oversee the delivery of indigent legal services, for poor New Yorkers.
- Fully funds the Judiciary’s civil legal services programs - in order to address shortfalls in funds in New York’s Interest on Lawyer Accounts (IOLA).
- Restores funding for the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence.
- Invests in Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant for drug, violence and crime control, and prevention programs.
- Expands the State Preparedness Training Center at Oriskany into a statewide training center for first responders.
- Establishes grants for county consortiums to develop regional interoperable communication networks for use by both state and local first responders.
- Saving Taxpayers by Streamlining Services, Ending Duplicative Waste
- PPGG merges the Office of Homeland Security, the State Emergency Management Office, the State 911 Board, the Office of Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure Coordination, and the Office of Fire Prevention and Control into the newly created Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, to ensure efficiency and cost savings of $1.5 million annually.
The budget also merges the Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives into DCJS to save the taxpayers from duplicative and unnecessary costs.
Protecting Poor New Yorkers by Investing in IOLA and Indigent Defense
PPGG fully funds the Judiciary’s appropriation of $15 million to legally assist those unable to afford adequate legal counsel and ensure “equal justice under law.” Without access to capable counsel, poor people – primarily elderly, children, immigrants, and people of color – cannot realistically secure meaningful access to justice and, at present, the State’s civil legal services programs meet less than 14% of the legal needs of the poor.
PPGG also establishes the Office for Indigent Legal Services which is governed by a Board overseen by the state’s Chief Justice, tasked with awarding grants to municipalities statewide to help with the legal services of those accused of a crime who may not otherwise be able to afford representation.
A 1965 Supreme Court ruling established a constitutional obligation to provide legal representation to persons charged with crimes, if such persons are unable to afford an attorney. However, a 2006 Commission Chaired by former Chief Judge Judith Kaye, found that in some counties, excessive caseloads, inability to hire full-time defenders, lack of adequate support services, lack of adequate training and minimal client contact. This budget will help municipalities afford and deliver the services they are obligated to provide.