Essence Magazine Feature Hits Newsstands Across Country in April
(Black PR Wire) -- ATLANTA (March 23, 2015) – Innocent people – often people of color – are being incarcerated due to an overwhelmed criminal justice system designed to clear court dockets instead of ensuring the Constitutional right of “equal justice for all.” But a new civil rights movement is starting to take shape.
Recent federal investigations surrounding the events in Ferguson, Mo., exposed systemic patterns of discrimination within our justice system. The recent bloodied arrest of a 20-year-old Black University of Virginia student and a viral video from the SXSW festival where a Black man was surrounded by five police officers and tasered presses the urgency of this movement.
This injustice within our justice system is why Jonathan Rapping and his wife Ilham Askia founded the nonprofit Gideon’s Promise to train a growing army of pioneering public defenders who refuse to accept the status quo in the nation’s public defense system. Their movement is making tremendous gains:
• In April 2015, Essence magazine recognized the importance of the organization’s work when it reported on a case in which a 22-year-old Black male was accused of attempting to run down two Atlanta police officers. His Gideon’s Promise-trained public defender found evidence indicating he was neither present nor a participant in the crime.
• In 2014, Rapping was named a MacArthur Genius Fellow, because of Gideon’s Promise’s ground-breaking work to ensure all citizens accused of crimes receive high-quality representation, not just those able to afford high-dollar legal teams.
• And in 2013, Rapping and Gideon’s Promise were featured in the award-winning and Emmy-nominated HBO documentary, “Gideon’s Army,” which follows three young public defenders, trained by Gideon’s Promise, in their sometimes heart breaking quest for equal justice in indigent defense. The organization has now trained and supported more than 300 public defenders in 16 states, who collectively represent tens of thousands of people each year.
“Public defenders are fighting in court to give many a second chance at life,” says Askia, Gideon’s Promise’s executive director. “The training we provide to lawyers across the country is an essential part in our ability to secure the often elusive but guaranteed justice demanded by our Constitution for our most vulnerable citizens.”
More than 24 innocent citizens have been exonerated recently from guilty verdicts and unnecessary jail time – 13 of which would have spent 10 years to life in prison had their defense attorneys not provided them with proper representation that reported and investigated these crimes responsibly in court.
“Nearly 80 percent of the 12 million people who move annually through America’s criminal justice system cannot afford a lawyer,” says Rapping. “As a result, many innocent people plead guilty simply because they cannot afford to take their case to trial. The public defender system is so overwhelmed by crushing volume, that adequate and meaningful defense often fails them as well.”
For more information about Gideon’s Promise, please visit www.GideonsPromise.org, or contact (404) 425-4505.