Gideon at 60: The Unfunded Mandate

As the legal scholar Paul Butler wrote ten years ago, “On every anniversary of Gideon, liberals bemoan the state of indigent defense.” On this 60th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision granting a lawyer to every poor defendant facing prison time, there is much to bemoan. Yet as the harms of the criminal legal system come into sharper relief, there is a larger question: even if Gideon‘s promise was fulfilled, how much would that change who principally suffers under the current system: the poor and people of color?

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