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Keystone Crossroads: Rust or Revival? explores the urgent challenges pressing upon Pennsylvania's cities. Four public media newsrooms are collaborating to report in depth on the root causes of our state's urban crisis -- and on possible solutions. Keystone Crossroads offers reports on radio, web, social media, television and newspapers, and through public events.Our partner stations are WHYY in Philadelphia, WPSU in State College and witf in Harrisburg. Read all of the partner stories here.Pittsburgh’s WQED joins the collaboration as an associate partner. Support for this project comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Interactive Map: A County-By-County Look At Spending On Public Defense In PA

Lindsay Lazarski
In the basement of the Fayette County Courthouse is the public defender's officer. There is one, full-time public defender, Jeffrey Whiteko.

How much does your county spend on public defense?

In Pennsylvania's scattershot system, funding varies widely depending on where you live.

In the interactive map above, you can toggle between how much county public defender offices had to spend per adult criminal case, or by their budget per capita. Both use 2015 data.

On the low end of both metrics, you'll find Fayette County, the place whereCrystal Weimer was wrongfully convicted for a murder she didn't commit, and then jailed for nearly 12 years.

Also on near the bottom, you'll find Blair County, where public defenders carry much higher adult criminal caseloads compared to the state average. There, defenders say private funding earmarked for drug policing and prosecution has them feeling completely overmatched.

As part of a our months long investigation into public defense in Pennsylvania, we spotlighted stories in those two counties.

But the effects at the local level are largely a product of state policy, or lack thereof.

Pennsylvania is an outlier nationally when it comes to public defense -- as the only state without state funding or oversight.

Despite charges that this means the state isn't living up to its Sixth Amendment obligation, Pa. lawmakers haven't made reform a priority.

Statewide caseload data for our series came from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.

Most individual public defender offices in the state do not track their own case statistics. The few that do keep tabs use the numbers when they advocate to county commissioners for added funding.

The majority of offices, though, seem too overwhelmed to carve out the time needed to develop a tracking system.


A note on the caseload data: most counties also have responsibilities beyond adult criminal cases; however, very few could tell us how many of these other matters they handled in 2015.

Read more in the series from our partner, Keystone Crossroads Series: No Justice for All.