Ensuring Those Who Can’t Hire a Private Lawyer Have The Best Public Defender

For more than a decade, Ilham Askia has embraced an audacious mission: To ensure that those most prone to incarceration – young, indigent citizens of color – gain the best defense. As co-founder and Executive Director of Atlanta-based Gideon’s Promise, the former schoolteacher has sought to reform the culture of the criminal justice system by transforming public defenders from dispirited cogs cutting plea deals that have made courts “turnstiles to prison” to zealous advocates who relentlessly fight for their clients’ freedom.

“Right now, the criminal justice system really has a way of processing people through instead of allowing [them] to actually get their constitutional right to have a good, quality public defender,” she told Black Enterprise. “Gideon’s Promise works with public defenders, slowing down that system of processing and talking about the humanity of people who are accused.”

Reforming the Public Defenders System 

Gideon’s Promise was launched in 2007 as a nonprofit to provide strategic training to public defenders while changing their mindsets about clients who can’t afford to hire their own attorneys. The organization was the brainchild of Ashia’s husband Jonathan Rapping, the former Training Director for the District of Columbia’s Public Defender Service who was recruited by the Georgia Public Standards Council to design and run development programs for staff across the state.

After his first visit in court, Askia said Rapping was galled by the frequent occurrence of constitutional violations. For example, he witnessed lawyers not filing motions for dismissal when prosecutors failed to produce evidence to make their cases. In some instances, he was told that public defenders were fearful of angering judges who were focused on clearing their dockets. Recalls Askia: “We came down here to help reform the public defender system in Georgia. After going to Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, and seeing young lawyers who were really passionate about this work quickly get burnt out by the system, we were trying to figure out why. Jon said, ‘They don’t have training and mentorship, and support to stay in this work.’ The next thing he said, ‘Why don’t you take a year off, and help me build this movement of public defenders?’ ”

The couple’s kitchen table conversation ignited the spark to spawn Gideon’s Promise – so named to fulfill the constitutional guarantee mandated by the 1963 landmark Supreme Court ruling in Gideon V. Wainwright that requires states to provide attorneys to defendants in criminal cases if they cannot afford such legal representation.

“Almost Every Man In My Family Has Been In The System” 

Forming the organization was also extremely personal to Askia. “Almost every man in my family has been in the system, whether it’s jail or prison. When I was five, my father was arrested and convicted, and I spent most of my childhood visiting him in Attica. We couldn’t afford a private defense attorney, and a public defender was assigned. That public defender never told the story of the impact of taking the head of our household,” she recalls. “Not that my father was necessarily innocent of everything he was accused of but he at least deserved to have an advocate. I had a distrust for the system. I thought everybody in the criminal justice system were against people that looked like me [or] who came from communities [like mine].”

Today, Askia works with Rapping to make sure others don’t receive the same type of legal neglect. Here’s how the program works: Rapping and Askia has develop a three-year “core program” for attorneys in which they gain training in technical areas such as forensic evidence as well as their approach to litigation, strategy and advocacy. The program also engages in a mentorship component that has help attorneys improve client representation. They also advise public defenders on how to best manager their annual average workload of 250 cases per year. In fact, she says that they have trained public defenders in the entire state of Maryland and Virginia at the senior management level. Moreover, they have aligned with law schools who have increased the pipeline of program participants. In terms of the success of their programs, she says Public defenders offices have retained 86% of Gideon’s Promise graduates and those trained by the program have increased the number of cases resolved in favor of defendants.

Their work has been so groundbreaking in the criminal justice arena that Rapping was named a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Fellow” in 2014.

Building a Sustainable Empire 

More than just a movement, Askia has built Gideon’s Promise into a sustainable enterprise. “Although this is a nonprofit, there are a lot of business philosophies I had to learn and adopt to attract those public defenders to partner with us,” she says. “For funders, it’s really telling a story. We make sure that our donors hear the story from the lawyers and the people that they serve.” As a result, Askia and her team have been in securing financing from sources ranging from the Ford Foundation, Koch Industries and Open Society Institute, developed by billionaire George Soros, to individual donors who may contribute amounts ranging from $ 100 to five dollar check. “The demand for our service has increased. I am supposed to have doubled in capacity by 2023, ideally is to have Gideon’s Promise Hubs in each quarter of the country. That’s $ 1.5 million of funding that I have to find additional to what we’ve raised.”

Askia draws upon another personal example to share the impact of Gideon’s promise. One day, she pick up her eight-year-old son. Lucas, from school and brought him to the office. At a local deli, her son was asked by the one of the cooks, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ Lucas said, ‘I want to be a public defender.’ So when my children say that, I’m ready for the negative reaction that most people give us. The guy says, “That’s great, I had a public defender once. I had been in trouble my whole life, and it was the first time that a public defender actually fought for me, and we won.” So I  asked, “Where did this happen?” He said, “Here in Georgia.” His public defender was a lawyer we had just trained the year before. My son got to meet someone who was positively impacted by a lawyer that came through our program, and is now leading an office here in Georgia. That just warmed my heart.”

In the video, find out how Gideon’s Promise seeks to protect the legal rights of citizens regardless of their financial standing.

 


A core tenet of the Market-Based Management framework developed by Charles G. Koch, CEO of one of the nation’s largest privately held corporations, Principled Entrepreneurship focuses on companies that emphasize value creation, innovation, self-determination, and integrity to drive long-term success while developing products and services to help people improve their lives. As such, we feature Ilham  Askia, co-founder and Executive Director of Gideon’s Promise as our subject in this installment of our special “Profiles of Principled Entrepreneurship” video series.

The post Ensuring Those Who Can’t Hire a Private Lawyer Have The Best Public Defender appeared first on Black Enterprise.

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CVS CEO has a fix for those mile-long receipts — here’s how it works

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Life Rolls On Sponsoring Malibu Acoustic Concert To Benefit Those Impacted By The Woolsey Fire

An evening to benefit people impacted by the Malibu fire. Featuring artists Bret Bollinger of Pepper, Cali Conscious, Dan Kelly of Fortunate Youth, The Palms, Chris Shiflett of Foo Fighters, Brandon Jenner, Timmy Curran, and Dawn Mitschele of Cardinal Moon.  | Please note: all guests must be at least 21 years old.

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Sky-high prices for air ambulances hurt those they are helping

Sonna Anderson was enjoying a horseback ride through the Badlands in North Dakota in September 2017 when her horse, Cody, got spooked, jerked toward a fence and tripped on a cow track in the dirt. The horse rolled onto Anderson, who hit her head, briefly lost consciousness and broke three ribs.


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Here’s how you should behave at those upcoming company holiday parties

Christmas starts earlier and earlier each year. And there are a lot of folks right now planning their company party. So let me be the first of many to offer advice on holiday party behavior: First, don’t do or say anything that would make your 10-year-old snitch to mommy or daddy. (Pretend your kid is…
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The President blasts those who want ‘the globe to do well’ and prompts ‘USA’ chants at Texas rally

What a difference two years makes. President Donald Trump will call on his supporters at a rally Monday night in Houston to turn out for his onetime nemesis, Sen. Ted Cruz — instead of whipping that same base of support into a frenzy against “Lyin’ Ted.”


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Facebook Live: What About Those Sky-High Air Ambulance Costs?

It’s bad enough that a patient has a health emergency so dire it requires a helicopter ride to make it to the hospital in time. But then comes the bill, which can approach six figures and for which insurance coverage is often spotty. In this Facebook Live discussion, Diane Webber, a senior editor at KHN who has coordinated coverage of the issue, talks with senior editor Stephanie Stapleton about the regulatory and market-based factors that contribute to these sky-high costs.

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‘Venom’ Director Spills on All Those Big Spoilers

SPOILER ALERT: Be warned, this article contains big spoilers about Venom. Proceed at your own risk.

Venom has officially arrived, and like most comic book movies, it came with its share of surprise reveals and telling Easter eggs. We asked director Ruben Fleischer about what the movie’s biggest surprises mean for the future of the franchise, and here’s everything we found out.

Yep, That Is Definitely Carnage in the Post-Credits Scene

In the big post-credits scene, Eddie Brock, his journalism career restored, interviewed an enigmatic inmate played by none other than actor Woody Harrelson. In case the rumors didn’t give it away, the shock of bright red hair and pointed use of the word “carnage” made it official: Serial killer Cletus Kasady, aka Carnage, will find his way into a potential Venom sequel. “What’s so exciting about [Venom] and this world is that it can really go anywhere,” Fleischer told FANDOM of the big Carnage reveal.


Venom, Carnage, Spider-Man

Who is Carnage, and why is he a big deal? In the comics, Eddie Brock met serial killer Cletus Kasady in jail, where Kasady was serving eleven consecutive life sentences. When the Venom symbiote tried to break Brock out of prison, it gave birth to another symbiote. This baby symbiote bonded with Kasady, creating the creature Carnage. Yup, comics are weird.

This bond heightened Kasady’s instability, and Carnage went on a murderous rampage all over New York City. Carnage is a true villain and shouldn’t be taken lightly — it’ll be interesting to see how he fits in with Venom’s humorous PG-13 world, especially with Woody Harrelson driving.

That Dead Astronaut Might Be an Important Spider-Man Link

In Venom, one of the astronauts killed upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere had a very familiar and possibly important last name: Jameson. You probably know J Jonah Jameson as the Daily Bugle newspaper editor constantly shouting for more pictures of Spider-Man in Sam Raimi’s Tobey Maguire-led movie trilogy. You might also remember that in 2004’s Spider-Man 2 Jameson’s son John, an astronaut, was engaged to Mary Jane Watson before she left him at the altar.


Venom, Spider-Man

In the Venom comics, the Jameson family has a more superhero-centric backstory. J Jonah Jameson’s son, J Jonah Jameson III, was a NASA astronaut who later became the character Man-Wolf — a very fancy kind of space werewolf. The quick ‘Jameson’ reference in Venom is our first reference to the family since Tom Holland took over as Spider-Man in 2017. Could this mean a more connected Venom/Spider-Man universe?

When asked about Jameson, Fleischer didn’t rule anything out. “Who knows where this will all go, but we tried to lay the groundwork for some intersecting worlds, and I think it’s exciting to imagine the possibilities of really exploring all of these different directions.”

We Could (and Should) Get More She-Venom

One of the best moments in Venom was Anne Weying’s brief appearance as She-Venom. When asked about her portrayal of Anne, actor Michelle Williams told FANDOM that she wanted Anne to be “a woman who was empowered and believed in her own worth enough to ask for respect and equality.” What could be more fitting equality than getting a symbiote alter ego of her own?

We asked Fleischer if we might see more of Anne as She-Venom in the future, and his answer gave us a lot of hope: “Nothing is ruled out.” We know that Michelle Williams is down to take on the role in a larger capacity, and we’re certainly ready to see more She-Venom, so yes, let’s do this.


Venom, She-Venom

Fleischer continued, “One of my favorite moments is the appearance of She-Venom, albeit brief. That is certainly a character I would like to spend more time with and would be excited to see where she goes in the future.” And considering Anne got a heavy make-out session with Eddie while she was taken over by Venom, is a twisted love triangle on the table now? Only time will tell.

Venom is in theaters now.

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