On average, public defenders in Virginia make 25% less than prosecutors, even though both are state employees. Now, there’s a move to change that, with two communities offering supplements that bring the two groups close to parity.
Jim Hingely is the public defender for Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
“We represent people who otherwise could not afford to have lawyers, and we assure that they have fair trials, and we assure that they’re being fairly treated.”
That means keeping innocent people out of jail, assuring appropriate punishment for those who are guilty and helping offenders find programs that will keep them from committing crimes in the future.
“ And, of course, when they’re on the right track they’re not just at lower risk of reoffending, they’re working, paying taxes, so this is just a big benefit to the community.”
For several years, Hingely’s been making the case before city council and the county board, and this year, both have agreed to pay a supplement that will bring the salaries of public defenders in line with public prosecutors . That, Hingely says, will make it easier to attract good attorneys and to keep them, so that poor clients are represented by experienced lawyers.