Mar 2, 2010

Free public defense is no longer free in Ohio

How would you feel if you had to pay $25 to prove that you are poor?
It happens every day in Ohio when indigent defendants are forced to pay an application fee in order to apply for public defenders.
This fee is another tax on poor people put into place in order to allow the state to reduce the amount it pays for public defense. In addition, the application fee has numerous problems associated with it, including the fact that it is enforced differently in each county, it places judges and public defenders in awkward positions and it is levied on people who have not been convicted of anything. An extra $25 can be very difficult for many people in Ohio to afford, even if they desperately need it in order to pay for the public defense that they are supposed to receive for free.
Athens County Job and Family Services has drafted a report on this fee and examined how it is collected in each county in Ohio. The report shows how the state has collected more than $6 million through this fee since 2005, all from people who are being forced to pay $25 just to prove they are poor.
The report is being sent to Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and Ohios legislative leaders to ask them to eliminate this tax on poor people. All Ohio residents are also asked to contact their legislators and encourage them to eliminate this fee.
Click here to read the report.

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