People with mental health disorders are over-represented in the justice system and it is imperative that defenders have the skills and resources to provide effective representation to this population. Yet, currently there is little guidance for attorneys representing clients with mental health disorders, and few empirical studies to provide foundation for these guidelines.

In partnership with Policy Research Associates, Vera conducted this study in two New York State counties (Bronx and Rochester), collecting both qualitative and quantitative data.

Research included: 

  1. paired interviews with clients with MHD and the indigent defenders assigned to represent them; and
  2. a review of defense agency policies, caseloads, and resources.

The extensive interview process was conducted in two phases:

  1. baseline interviews, which occured shortly after arraignment while clients were held in pretrial custody;
  2. and follow-up interviews soon after the case was resolved.

 And interview topics included:

  • the needs, perceptions and priorities of clients;
  • attorney perceptions of client needs;
  • defense strategies;
  • client and attorney perceptions of the attorney-client relationship and interactions; and
  • post-disposition reflections on the case, including attorney and client satisfaction with case outcomes and representation.

This project was supported by Award No. 2012-R2-CX-0009 awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this web page are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.