“A good number of people are in jail in this country when their lawyers ought to be in jail instead of them.”

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Poor Criminal Defendants Face ‘Too Many Barriers’ To Get Lawyers, Says DOJ

November 10, 2015 4:45 PM ET

Vanita Gupta, head of the civil rights division at the Department of Justice.i

Vanita Gupta, head of the civil rights division at the Department of Justice. Tony Dejak/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Tony Dejak/AP

Vanita Gupta, head of the civil rights division at the Department of Justice.

Vanita Gupta, head of the civil rights division at the Department of Justice.

Tony Dejak/AP

The chief of the Justice Department’s civil rights division says “too many barriers still exist in courts across America” when it comes to providing lawyers to poor criminal defendants.

In a speech to the first-ever National Consortium on the Right to Counsel, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta said, “The bottom line is this: Denying one’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel can negatively impact public safety. And it also drains precious taxpayer resources.”

Gupta spoke in sometimes personal terms about her first major case as a young lawyer for the NAACP Legal…

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