Kansas public defense faces a crisis point

The state's public defense system is at a crisis point with overworked attorneys struggling to keep up with demand and a worker shortage.


State News

January 23, 2023 - 2:24 PM

A Kansas BIDS official said the organization needs more funding to provide adequate levels of legal support. Photo by (Getty Images)

TOPEKA — Kansas public defense is at a crisis point, officials say, with overworked attorneys struggling to provide adequate services in the midst of a worker shortage.

Heather Cessna, executive director of the Kansas State Board of Indigents’ Defense Services, gave lawmakers an overview of the agency’s situation Thursday, during a House Judiciary Committee meeting.

Kansas doesn’t have enough criminal defense counsel to meet the volume of cases being charged by prosecutors. Cessna said the agency was drowning, grappling with a worker shortage, poor pay and long hours. 

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