(WKBN) — The funding for indigent defense in Mahoning County has drastically changed. WKBN Community Affairs Director Dee Crawford spoke to President of the Mahoning County Bar Association Ryan Ingram about the funding and why the increase.

“So the funding for indigent defense in Mahoning County, the hourly rate is set by the county commissioners. So I believe back in 2019, we would reimburse for part of that indigent defense from the Ohio Public Defender’s Office, and those numbers range anywhere from 50 to 70, even up to 90%. But recently, Governor DeWine, along with the General Assembly, has earmarked, I believe it is, approximately $336 million for indigent defense. So what they’re predicting is in the fiscal year 2022 and 2023, that Mahoning County would be reimbursed nearly 100% for all indigent defense,” said Ingram.

Of the 88 counties and the incidence of civil or criminal or capital cases, would the urban counties be the recipients of the majority of that money because that’s where a lot of the indigent cases come to court?

“Depending on the severity of the charge, there are certain caps for fees. So, for instance, if you’re charged with a capital offense, there is no cap on that fee, and the Ohio Public Defender’s Office has actually set an hourly rate that is typically more than what you would get for a regular case. So when I say regular case, I mean non-capital case, just a typical felony of the first, second, third, fourth or fifth degree. I believe the hourly rate for capital cases is $125 an hour, whereas the hourly rate for a typical criminal indigent defense case is $75 an hour,” said Ingram.

That’s taxpayers’ dollars, whether it’s from the state or the county. Given the increase in the number of incidents of violence coming before the court, is that a lot of money?

“It’s most certainly a lot of money, and we have never seen this amount of money earmarked for indigent defense ever before,” said Ingram.

Is Ingram seeing a lot of increase in the number of cases coming to the court?

“Where whether there’s an increase in the number of cases, and I think there might even more. So in increasing the severity of the level of offenses,” said Ingram.

“There’s an offense of violence under the Ohio Revised Code. There’s a myriad of offenses that would qualify. I mean, your simple assault cases, your felonious assault cases, rapes, robberies, burglaries, what have you,” Ingram added.

So as the number of incidents of crime goes up, the money coming from the state to reimburse qualified attorneys to make sure these individuals are adequately represented in court is there?

“Yes, and I think the rates were just increased about two or three years ago. So it used to be $60 an hour in court, $50 an hour out of court in Mahoning County. In Trumbull County, I believe that they were even less at some point. But along with the Ohio Public Defender’s Office, they agreed to raise the rates across the board up to that $75 an hour, because I think they wanted to attract younger lawyers, to take indigent defense cases, to work for the Public Defender’s Office and try and keep those lawyers employed maybe in that realm, as opposed to maybe like a corporate law job or something of that nature,” said Ingram.