City Park was recently stripped of funding, for the benefit of the overburdened public defender system. What followed this announcement was outrage among the lawmakers' constituents, who felt that the money was better spent where originally allocated. As of last week, the budget had yet to be finalized, and lawmakers were still in talks.
While there is some concern over the need of funding for the park's survival, the public defender system is woefully under-equipped. Public defenders have been historically overworked. Gideon's Army, a documentary following several public defenders across the country, shines a light on the public defender system. It profiles how overworked these people are, often working hundreds of cases a year.
While City Park is indeed struggling, public defenders have been struggling for far longer. Without this funding, those without the means to pay for representation will be forced to deal with a system that is overwhelmed by demand. Louisiana is not alone in this problem, but it is one of the hot spots, with NPR reporting that it is difficult to find a public defender in Louisiana at all.
The article outlines how those who seek representation are put on a waiting list to be represented. When those who seek it are given said counsel, they rarely come into contact with their lawyer, according to reporting by NPR. Frederick Bell, one of many in such a situation, has seen little of his lawyer, in spite of the fact that he has been offered a plea bargain and bail has been set. Even while all these things have happened, he has seen his lawyer very little.
Louisiana's City Park is struggling with its normal $22 million budget, as most of its income comes from events and has had their funding restored. No word on whether the public defender funding will come from somewhere else.