Missouri’s criminal justice system continues to be threatened by a severely overtaxed public defenders system, according to a new study.


 

Missouri’s criminal justice system continues to be threatened by a severely overtaxed public defenders system, according to a new study.

Missouri’s public defender system has ‘‘an overwhelming caseload crisis’’ that has pushed the state’s criminal justice system ‘‘to the brink of collapse,’’ said the study issued Friday by the Spangenberg Group and the Center for Justice, Law and Society at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

There has been little improvement since a similar study was done in 2005, it said.

Public defenders represent those unable to afford their own attorneys. Offices throughout the state routinely report the attorneys have twice their recommended maximum workloads.

The study noted that Missouri ranks 49th out of 50 states in per-capita spending on indigent defense.

‘‘For close to a decade, (the public defender system) has received no substantial increase in appropriations, despite the fact that year by year, (the system) has submitted budgets demonstrating that it is seriously underfunded and overloaded with cases,’’ the study concluded.

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