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Gideon's Army Documentary Puts Public Defenders In the Spotlight



The School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University held a panel discussion this week on “The Crisis in American Criminal Justice: Why America is the World’s Largest Jailer.”


Speakers included Dawn Porter, founder of Trilogy Films and director/producer of the documentary, “Gideon’s Army”; David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project; and Jessica Henry, associate professor in the Department of Justice Studies of Montclair State University.


For the evening’s highlight, panelists and visitors viewed a screening of the documentary film, “Gideon’s Army.” Named after the landmark 1963 Supreme Court Case, Gideon versus Wainright, which established the right to free legal defense in criminal cases, the movie follows the stories of three public defenders living and working in the American South.


The film highlights the long hours, extremely low salaries, and tremendously demanding caseloads that public defenders must endure. It also explores how criminal defendants are often routed into unfavorable plea bargains and overly stiff sentences.



How You Can Help


The Southern Public Defender Training Center, since renamed Gideon’s Promise, features prominently in the film, and plays a key role in training, motivating, and simply providing emotional support to public defenders. For more information about this organization which seeks “transformative change” of the criminal justice system, visit their website.


An excerpt from the documentary:


The Gideon's Army trailer: