The financial requirements to qualify for a public defender in Maine are so restrictive that a household subsisting on food stamps may be forced to hire their own private attorney if charged with a crime.

The landmark case, Gideon v. Wainwright, resulted in the government being required to provide legal defense to those who cannot afford it. The Maine Commission of Indigent Legal Services continues to fail our poorest residents in its duty outlined by the Constitution and mandated by the Supreme Court.

A family that cannot afford to feed themselves is hardly in a position to hire an expensive legal adviser that may cost upwards of $400 per hour.

The moral imperative to provide legal assistance, however, does not stop there. The New York Times reported that more than 90 percent of criminal cases don’t ever reach a jury in the United States.

People are surrendering their constitutional rights in the face of a crumbling criminal justice system. This is why that moral mandate we have as citizens extends to ensuring competent legal defense, and not simply fabricating another way to mass incarcerate the impoverished.

I call on our state Legislature to fulfill its duty in upholding the Constitution, momentarily forget their partisan strife, and perform a service that actually will benefit the people of Maine. I dearly hope one of our public servants will choose to champion this cause, and work across the aisle to do so.

Matthew Raymond

Augusta


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