Gideon’s Promise Is…
- Gideon’s Promise is 501 (c)(3) public defender organization whose mission is to transform the criminal justice system by building a movement of public defenders who provide equal justice for marginalized communities.
- The organization’s name is taken from the 1963 landmark case Gideon vs. Wainwright in which the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that every person accused of a crime in America must be provided a lawyer, regardless of their economic status.
- A public defender is a lawyer employed at public expense in a criminal trial/proceeding to represent a defendant who is unable to afford legal assistance. 80% of people accused of crimes rely on public defenders to protect the constitutional rights of America’s most vulnerable citizens.
- Gideon’s Promise was founded in 2007 by Jonathan Rapping who previously worked for ten years as a public defender in Washington D.C before moving to Atlanta to help reform public defense systems in Georgia and Louisiana.
- Ilham Askia, a former educator, serves as Gideon’s Promise’s executive director and her work is informed by personal experiences with poorly trained public defenders, one of which resulted in a ten-year prison sentence for her father.
- Gideon’s Promise’s original mission was to answer the need for training and mentorship for public defenders working in under resourced communities in the South. Subsequently, Gideon’s Promise expanded its area of focus to include public defenders throughout the United States.
- Gideon’s Promise is the only public defender advocacy organization with a program model to support public defenders at all levels of their career to include new lawyers, supervisors, chief defenders, trainers, law students considering careers in public defense and the clinical instructors who teach them.
- Founder Jonathan Rapping believes the organization’s comprehensive support of public defenders is critical to transforming the culture of public defense in America.
Current Programs and Partnerships
- CORE 101: The three-year comprehensive anchor program provides new public defenders, with less than three years of experience, with strategies and tactics to improve their representation and the skills necessary to become an excellent advocate for the accused.
- Alumni Program: This program is available to graduates of Core 101 interested in mentoring, becoming a faculty member or advanced skills training.
- Leadership Program: Chief defenders. deputy directors and other senior staff from public defender offices from across the country meet every six months to participate in management training, leadership development and share strategies for improving delivery of public defense services in their areas.
- Trainer Development Program: Attorney’s with an interest in becoming part of the Gideon’s Promise faculty, public defender trainers and law school clinicians learn the Gideon’s Promise curriculum and strategies to effectively teach and mentor public defenders working in more challenging systems.
- Summer Law Clerk: Law students with an interest in public defense as a career are paired with a public defender in a Gideon’s Promise partner offices where they gain valuable exposure to all aspects of effective public defense.
- Law School Partnership Project: A three-year fellowship that provides recent laws school graduates committed to a career in public defense with continuing legal education (CLE) training and guarantee permanent employment in a partner public defense office upon program completion.
A Few More Facts
- Gideon’s Promise trained lawyers has grown from 16 lawyers to nearly 1,000. Each working with an annual average of 200 clients and approximately 200,0000 people and their families each year.
- Gideon’s Promise’s highly respected faculty is comprised of 60 of the best current and former public defenders from across the country.
- Gideon’s Promise programming is conducted in partnership with and for the benefit of 104 partner, statewide and affiliate offices public defender offices located in 29 states and the United States Virgin Islands.
- The Law School Partnership Project is executed in conjunction with 22 law schools that include, but are not limited to, Cornell Law School; Harvard Law School; University of Michigan Law School; Stanford Law School; University of Pennsylvania Law School; Vanderbilt University Law School, American University Law School, University of Texas School of Law and Columbia Law School.
- To date, Gideon’s Promise has trained 437 new public defenders.
- Research conducted in partnership with the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S Department of Justice and Measures for Justice indicates in the pretrial and sentencing stages of the criminal defense system Gideon’s Promise trained attorneys are more likely to get pretrial diversion; less likely to plead guilty; and their clients are incarcerated less often.
- Founder Jonathan Rapping believes, “Criminal justice is this generation’s greatest civil and human rights struggle.”
- Gideon’s Promise has won numerous awards including, but not limited to, Emory University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award; Southern Center for Human Rights’ Gideon’s Promise Award; The National Association of Sentencing Advocates and Mitigation Specialists Sentencing Project Award; and the American College of Trial Lawyers Emil Gumpert Award. The organization also served as the inspiration for the award-winning HBO documentary Gideon’s Army.
- Gideon’s Promise Founder/President Jonathan Rapping has received many awards and honors for his innovative approach to criminal justice reform that include, but are not limited to, featured speaker at TEDx Atlanta and recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.
“Overall, my experience with [Gideon’s Promise] will be something that I carry with me through the rest of my legal career.”
Jessica McArdle — Clerk, Roger Williams University School of Law