Since I'm working these days on the initiative to end death sentences in California, I'm more than usually aware of the inequities in our criminal justice system. Despite the earnest efforts of courts and lawyers (at least most of them, most of the time), the legal system is neither efficient or reliably fair.
A New York Times editorial reports on a study of one aspect of this that confirmed everything I've observed.
It's as if the city of Philadelphia had set up a scientific experiment to discern what method of providing lawyers to the poor achieved better results -- and the results are in.
But wouldn't providing better legal representation cost a lot of money? Well perhaps, but we are talking about depriving people of their freedom, so we ought to get it right. And the same study suggests the cost may not be so large as we intuitively think.
All this accords with what I've seen when friends ended up before the courts; see a longer description here. Overworked public defenders do a very professional job of representing people who've tumbled into the junkyard of society; we need more, not less, of them.