Date of Award


Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Academic Program

Biological Sciences BS


Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs; English

First Advisor

Marek Steedman, Ph.D.

Advisor Department

Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs


The public defender system in the United States is in an indigent defense crisis because it is often unable to provide adequate representation to the citizens that the United States Constitution requires them to give. The growing attention on the system today is shedding light on public defenders’ stifling caseloads and on the people who are failing to receive the legal representation to which they are entitled by the constitution. The lack of political prioritization, the systemic inequities throughout the criminal justice system, and the underfunding of the public defender system has often rendered public defenders unable to provide their clients with adequate representation in court.

The purpose of this research is to examine the history of the public defender system, to address the problems within the system as it stands today, to explore what scholars suggest can be done to improve the system, and to give my own suggestions as to what should be done after conducting this research. The specific shortcomings that will be investigated include the lack of financial support given to public defenders; the disparate impact a lack of public defenders has on specific communities; and how implementing standardization to the current legislation would allow all public defenders to provide their defendants with adequate representation.