Gideon’s Promise Founder: Public Defenders Are Key To Equal Justice

Jon Rapping, Gideon’s Promise Founder

The driver for equal justice is the assumption that some people are less than others. Public Defenders represent 80% of people in the criminal justice system. We can talk about 2.3 million incarcerated, most of them are poor, the majority of them people of color. We can talk about how we literally lock people up pre-trial and presumed innocent on bail that they can’t afford. All of those are problems… but they are symptoms.

The root problem is that we have embraced the narrative that some people are ‘others.’ Some people are less than human. When you look at the Black Lives Matter movement, doesn’t that name just say, ‘See us as people.’ It’s really no different than 50 years ago when the sanitation workers in Memphis were marching with signs that say ‘I am a man.’  It’s simply saying, ‘See me as a human being.’

If you believe, as I do, that the driver behind unequal justice is that we have accepted a narrative that some people are less than human, and that the only way we can change our assumptions is to hear their voices and hear their stories, and recognize their humanity – if you agree with that, as I do, then you recognize that in the criminal justice system, the public defenders who speak for 80% of the people are the vehicle through which, those voices are heard, those stories are told, that humanity is realized. Only then will we have will to truly transform the system and not just tweak it around the edges.”

– Jon Rapping, Founder of Gideon’s Promise

We are proud to be one of the largest Gideon’s Promise offices in the country with more than a quarter of our office versed in this immersive training program.

You can listen to the entire interview on the Berkeleyside Podcast  here.