Public defenders are a critical aspect of the U.S. criminal justice system as they help 80% of the people who interact with the court systems.
When Jonathan Rapping first started practicing law as a public defender, he did not fully appreciate the role and impact that public defenders play in ensuring justice for marginalized people. But in the years since then, that’s changed and in his new book, Rapping argues that overhauling the public defender system could radically change the nation’s criminal justice system for the better.
“They have put public defenders in a position of having to very efficiently process human beings into cells and public defenders have been used to fuel mass incarceration.” –Jonathan Rapping, author of “Gideon’s Promise: A Public Defender Movement to Transform Criminal Justice”
After seeing countless young lawyers burn out and leave the field of public defense, Rapping decided to start an organization, called Gideon’s Promise, to train public defenders how to resist injustice and become the conscience of the system.
Listen: Jonathan Rapping discusses his book “Gideon’s Promise: A Public Defender Movement to Transform Criminal Justice.”
Jonathan Rapping is a law professor at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School and a MacArthur Grant Awardee. He also recently wrote the book, “Gideon’s Promise: A Public Defender Movement to Transform Criminal Justice.” His book acts as his blueprint on how to radically change the criminal justice system.
Rapping says for a long time public defenders have been overwhelmed and underfunded, and that many cannot live up to what they need to be to communities. “They have put public defenders in a position of having to very efficiently process human beings into cells and public defenders have been used to fuel mass incarceration,” he says. “And in this book, I envision a world where public defenders actually lead a charge to decarcerate, to end mass incarceration.”
Rapping says this book is the result of stories of injustice, and he hopes it will help people realize that the role of public defenders is about more than just what happens in the courtroom. “They are about helping impacted communities, who are led to the criminal legal system, because of a lack of housing, because of a lack of good education, because of a lack of health care, mental health services,” he explains. “All those things bring people to the system where they need public defenders to stop and say: ‘Let’s look behind the case and see the human being and treat them like someone that we love and care about.’”
Web post written by Dan Netter