FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEBJA
THURSDAY, MARCH 18, 1999202/307-0703

TENNESSEE PUBLIC DEFENDERS CONFERENCE GETS INDIGENT DEFENSE GRANT

$79,000 Will Allow Conference to Enhance Technology

WASHINGTON, D.C.--The Tennessee District Public Defenders Conference in Nashville will use new funds from the Justice Department to purchase multimedia equipment that will be shared by public defenders across the state to help them better serve the offenders assigned to them.

Under the leadership of the Attorney General, the Justice Department has been working to improve the level of assistance provided by counsel for indigent criminal defendants. The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA)--the component of the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs (OJP) making this award today--met with indigent defense experts and practitioners and used information from that meeting to develop the "Emerging Issues in Indigent Defense Management Technology" program, under which this grant is being made.

"The indigent defense community has long been underserved," said BJA Director Nancy Gist. "Indigent defense offices across the country lack the tools that could help them better serve those they are asked to defend. We hope by making grants such as this one to the New York Legal Aid Society we can help indigent defense providers overcome the many obstacles they face."

This is one of seven grants being made by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) under a special discretionary grant program designed to improve the delivery of indigent defense. BJA received 101 proposals for funds under this program. Other sites being funded include the Legal Aid Society of New York in New York City; the Navajo County Public Defender; the Middle Judicial Circuit of Tripartite in Lyons, Georgia; the Office of the Public Defender 16th Judicial Circuit in Key West, Florida; the El Paso County Public Defender's Office in El Paso, Texas; and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in Rosebud, South Dakota.

On February 25 and 26, 1999, OJP and BJA hosted a national symposium, "Improving Criminal Justice Systems Through Expanded Strategies and Innovative Collaborations." At the symposium, federal officials and indigent defense practitioners and experts were provided a forum to explore practical ways to help indigent defense providers to effectively forge alliances, build and strengthen innovative partnerships, and collaborate to enhance the representation of indigent criminal defenders.

For additional information about BJA and its programs, visit its Internet website at: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA

For information on the Tennessee District Public Defenders Conference's program, contact W. Andy Hardin at 615/741-5562.

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