Today, March 18, 2018, is the 55th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case Gideon v. Wainwright. The struggle of Clarence Earl Gideon to obtain defense counsel, and his fight to affirm his right to counsel regardless of means, cemented the Sixth Amendment right that if a person cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided. Public defense access has improved since the Gideon decision, but the public defense system struggles from chronic underfunding, inconsistent standards for public defense eligibility and quality depending on the state, and a lack of support for training and resources for public defenders.
Explaining Criminal Justice Reform to a Six-Year Old
For young kids, learning about careers usually means learning about teachers, doctors, nurses, firemen, police officers, etc. So, a couple of years ago, when my then six-year-old son asked me to describe what I do, I really had to think about it. As well as being the project director of the National Drug Court Resource Center, my work at the Justice Programs Office (JPO) encompasses other areas of the criminal justice policy field.
This is how I answered him:
Continue reading “Explaining Criminal Justice Reform to a Six-Year Old”
This Is Gideon
If you were arrested and charged with a crime, would you know what to do? If you were brought into a courtroom in handcuffs, told to stand straight, look up at a judge, and listen to a prosecutor dressed in a suit make statements about your character and accusing you of a crime, would you know how to react? What if you had someone next to you, who was familiar with the process and the court actors, telling you it was okay and that s/he was there to support and advocate for you, would that change how you felt? That is the power of Gideon.