Gideon’s Promise is a 501 (C)(3), nonprofit public defender advocacy organization that provides training, mentorship and leadership development to improve the quality of legal representation for the clients and communities they serve.
To strengthen public defenders as instruments of change for systemic criminal justice reform.
The support Gideon’s Promise provides public defenders is informed by six (6) core values that seek to change the culture of public defense in America:
We respect the dignity and autonomy of all public defender clients and strive to build a community of advocates committed to learning each client’s priorities in the representation and providing them the knowledge and information necessary to make informed decisions in their cases. While we strive to provide guidance, advice and assistance, we do so without seeking to impose our own judgments.
We recognize that culture—a set of values and assumptions shared and internalized by all members of an organization—drives the way we view our work, our clients and our role in the criminal justice system. We strive to build cultures that reinforce the importance of public defense and the dignity and humanity of those we serve.
We value that everyone is treated fairly and represented by public defenders with the highest degrees of passion, courage and commitment to their clients, their communities and their profession.
We value community that provides for public defenders to work together to strengthen their skills, invigorate their commitment, support and inspire one another and build peer relationships that provide guidance and motivation.
We are committed to ensuring that public defenders have the skills necessary to allow them to engage productivity with the widely diverse constituencies with whom they work, including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, income, gender, sexuality and citizenship status.
We value and promote public defenders who advocate for change to positively impact their clients and communities.
Gideon’s Promise was founded as a nonprofit in 2007 by Jonathan Rapping as the Southern Public Defender Training Center (SPDTC) with a fellowship from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations to answer the need for training and mentorship for public defenders working in under resourced communities in the South. Rapping spent 10 years as a public defender in Washington, D.C. and knew first-hand the turnover rate was high in public defense and sought to identify ways to sustain attorneys with a community of peers they could rely on for support. The Gideon’s Promise program model is based on client and community-focused values that serve as the foundation for the training, mentoring and leadership development public defenders receive from the organization.
In 2010, the SPDTC received it’s 501 (c)(3) non-profit designation under the name Gideon’s Promise. The organization’s name was taken from the 1963 landmark case Gideon v. Wainwright in which the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled that every person accused of a crime in America must be provided with a lawyer, regardless of their economic status or ability to pay.
Subsequently, Gideon’s Promise has grown from a singular training program for 16 attorneys in two public defender offices in Georgia and Louisiana to a national organization with over 1,000 participants from 104 partner, statewide and affiliate offices across 29 states and the United States Virgin Islands. Initially a three-year program for new public defenders, Gideon’s Promise has expanded into a comprehensive program model that supports public defenders at all levels of their career. The organization also serves as a critical pipeline between 22 distinguished law schools and its partner public defense offices, ensuring the next generation of public defenders. Twice a year, new lawyers, supervisors, chief defenders, trainers, law students considering a career in public defense and the clinical instructors that teach them participate in the curriculum of Gideon’s Promise.
“In the national conversation about criminal justice reform, we only value public defenders to the extent that we value the voices of impacted communities.”