|The right to legal representation for those accused of crime is now a constitutional right across the American legal system. State oversight of indigent defense programs in the American states has not been the subject of systematic study. Today most defendants charged and convicted of crimes are guaranteed the right to counsel during all criminal justice proceedings. State indigent defense programs are strained by the growing number of cases requiring state appointed indigent defense counsel. This research explores the history of indigent defense in the American states and the administrative structures and reform efforts in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. This study draws upon the literatures of diffusion and agenda setting to identify and explore factors that have encouraged reform and influenced the pattern of state oversight of indigent defense programs across five Southern states. Data are drawn from interviews with elected and appointed court officials, state and local public administrators, advocates, and representatives of the legal community in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. This research establishes a foundation for further research on the administrative structure and decision processes that states use when making decisions about indigent defense representation.