USA (MNN) — Michigan has the seventh worst indigent public defense system in America.
In other words, poor people in Michigan are entitled to a state appointed lawyer but often do not get the service they need for a fair trial.
Dr. David Schuringa, president of Crossroad Bible Institute, has been appointed by Governor Snyder to serve on the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission to improve the quality of free public defense for residents who cannot afford a private counsel.
The main issue is that public lawyers in Michigan have too much work and poorly-distributed funding.
While the national standard number of cases for a full-time public defender is 400 a year, part-time public defenders in Detroit have between 2,400-2,8000 cases.
The constitutional right for representation even if you can’t afford private consultation gets watered down to 30 minutes with a public defense lawyer.
Schuringa says, “Because of people being overworked, because of inadequate funding, poor people are not getting an adequate defense. And sometimes they’re going to prison innocent or getting overcharged.”
Schuringa explains that overcharging someone or imprisoning them unjustly is actually more of a pain. It costs $35,000 a year to house somebody in prison.
Schuringa wants to focus on getting the bad guys in jail, not people who are just too poor to be proven innocent.
He served several years on the nonprofit Michigan Campaign for Justice whose sole purpose was to get House Bill 4529 passed and the committee established.
“We’re just delighted with our Governor Snyder for appointing this 14-person commission. The commission is to come up with unified state standards that all the counties can abide by and be properly funded.
“We have some counties that are doing an okay job, and some counties that are doing a terrible job. Some counties just do not have the proper funding for public defense of poor people,” Schuringa says.
Michigan is one of seven states that leave it up to the counties to fund their public defense system. The committee will work to establish a set of standards for all counties, equalizing resources to improve the defense system.
For Schuringa, this effort fits into Biblical principles. Jesus was an advocate for the poor when He walked the earth. God has reminded us many times throughout His Word that we need to protect and aid the poor.
Schuringa is a volunteer on many boards around the country. He does not believe that his role on the Defense Committee will take away from his job at CBI.
Shuringa thinks just the opposite: “Crossroad will only be enriched by our involvement in ventures like this.”
In light of Governor Snyder’s move to improve the system, Schuringa says, “When it comes to helping the poor and the prisoners, he seems to want to do what’s right. And so I am just delighted to have a very small part in that, and I don’t feel that I have to in any way compromise my Christian values. I think that my Christian values will be an asset and have shown to be so in the past.”
Schuringa says you can stay updated on the condition of the prison system via CBI’s Web site. Watch their weekly 30 minute television program online to stay informed.
He mentions CBI’s newsletter and prayer guide, which you can find here.
He urges you, if you have a heart for prison ministry, to be a voice for people in prison.
If you’d like to be further involved with CBI, you can volunteer as an instructor for CBI’s prison classes.
Read more stories from CBI here.