Kalamazoo County will consider major changes to its indigent defense system at a special meeting next week. The county has to bring its public defense services up to new state standards.
It’s considering creating a dedicated office for indigent defense that would operate as a non-profit. That would replace the contract system it uses now.
Indigent defense services would not share a building with the prosecutor’s office. Assistant Corporate Counsel Amber Beebe says that shows the community that the agencies are separate.
“There’s some concern over having a public defender’s office housed in the same entity that houses the prosecutor’s office, which is understandable,” she says.
Beebe says the independent-office model has a number of benefits for both clients and staff. And she says the office could play an educational role.
“It looks like having the law school involved would be very helpful with internships and things of that nature – additional help with the attorneys’ research and things like that,” she says.
The county had considered funding a non-profit indigent defense office in part with private donations, but the most recent plan drops that idea. The special county meeting on indigent defense has been set for Tues., Nov. 14 at 4:30 in the afternoon.
The county has until the 20th to turn in a plan for state approval.