Jon Rapping: “Restoring Humanity in the Criminal Justice System” | Talks at Google


[MUSIC PLAYING] [APPLAUSE] JON RAPPING: But I want
to start by thanking Kent for supporting this event. Emanuel and Steve for all you’ve
done to put this together, I really am grateful. And it’s such an honor to
be here in Silicon Valley. I want to kick things off
by showing a quick video. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] [BIRDS CHIRPING] – Daddy is the sweetest
daddy in the world. – Mm-hm. [MUSIC PLAYING] – Daddy is the most handsome. The smartest. The most clever. The kindest. He is my Superman. [APPLAUSE] Daddy wants me to
do well at school. Daddy is just great, but– he lies. [MUSIC PLAYING] He lies about having a job. He lies about having money. He lies that he is not tired. He lies that he is not hungry. He lies that we have everything. He lies about his happiness. He lies because of me. [MUSIC PLAYING] [BIRDS CHIRPING] [MUSIC PLAYING] [END PLAYBACK] JON RAPPING: So that video
moves me every time I watch it. It moves me because
I’m a father. It moves me because I
have a little girl that means the world to me. But mostly it moves me
because I’ve met that man. And I’ve met him many times. I’ve represented him
in countless cases. Our prisons and
jails in America are filled with men just like him. Fathers who love their children,
men who are looking for work, but can’t find it, who will do
any odd job to make ends meet. But at some point they just
can’t find that next odd job, and then they’re
faced with a question. Do I let my baby girl go hungry,
or do I do something drastic? And I think to myself, if I
were faced with that situation, would I do something drastic? Would I maybe steal a sandwich? I know for me the answer is yes. And if that man does
that, and he’s caught, he will be arrested, he will be
processed into a court system, and he’ll be given a label. In courtrooms
across this country he’ll be labeled a thief. And without an advocate,
without a lawyer, to provide a counter narrative
to show him as a father, as a caring person,
as a hard worker, he will be processed into
a cell with no thought about his daughter. We won’t know if perhaps
she drops out of school, perhaps ends up in an
orphanage, winds up in the juvenile justice system. We won’t know because we
won’t know the counter story. What I’ve learned in
my over 20 years now, working in the criminal
justice system, is that if anything defines
criminal justice in America, it’s that we are indifferent
to most people processed through the system every day. I started my career
in Washington, DC. I was fortunate to be in a
well-resourced public defender office for 10 years. I had the resources, and
I had manageable caseloads to give every client
what they deserved. I work seven days a week,
but in working that hard I could give people
what they deserve. And I came to think
after 10 years that that is generally how
justice worked in America. And then I moved to
the South to help with an effort to build
a new criminal justice system in Georgia. And I started to meet these
young, passionate public defenders. They were every bit as talented
as the lawyers I knew in DC. But they went into
systems that had come to accept an embarrassingly
low standard of justice for poor people. They went into systems that
expected them to go along with the processing. And after a while many of
them either quit, or became resigned to the status quo. Perhaps most
emblematic of that was when two years after
being in Georgia I left to spend a year helping
rebuild the Public Defender Office in New Orleans in the
wake of Hurricane Katrina. And I remember when I went
to New Orleans I walked into a courtroom
for the first time, it was the most amazing
thing I’d ever seen. There were people
everywhere in suits. There were– there were
men and women in suits scattered across the courtroom. You didn’t know who
the defenders were. You didn’t know
who the prosecutors were because no one was
tethered to a particular table. You knew who the
judge was because he was on the bench with a robe. And you knew who
the accused were because they were men in
orange jumpsuits lined up and shackled. And the judge started
calling cases, and the judge would call a name. And a voice would float
up from the suits. You didn’t know what
suit the voice belong to. No one in a suit ever stood next
to someone in an orange jumper. And a voice would float up
and within 10 or 15 seconds they’d move on to the next
case, and the processing just went on. Until eventually the
judge called a name and there was no voice. And the judge turned to the
orange jumpsuits and said, is Mr. So-and-so here? And a man stood up and the
judge said, where’s your lawyer? And the man said I
haven’t seen my lawyer since I got locked up. And the judge said, well, how
long have you been locked up? The man said 70 days. Judge said, thank you
sir, sit down, and went on with the processing. And what shocked me
more than the fact that a man was locked up for
70 days without a lawyer, was that no one in that
courtroom was fazed. Not the judge, not
the prosecutors, not the defenders who were
charged with being the voice of these men. It was my introduction to
something that really forms the basis of Gideon’s Promise. And that is that
the greatest problem we have in the criminal justice
system is a cultural problem. We have come to accept the
processing of poor people as normal. This painting, by a
man named Frank Wu, simply captioned,
“Indifference.” It’s really quite a
moving painting to me. Its message is so simple. Right, it’s these
robotic legs walking past this homeless veteran
curled up in a fetal position. And the message
is that all of us are bombarded every day
by so much misery, so much poverty, so much injustice, that
it just becomes human nature to walk by it. We build up a wall around
us as a defense mechanism, not because we’re bad people,
but because it’s human nature. My kids are two of the
biggest homeless advocates you’d ever meet. My son, who is eight,
said to me not long ago. He said, daddy,
when you grow up, I love that, when you grow
up, he thinks I’m young. He said, when you
grow up, if you could be anyone in the world,
who would you be other than me, or my sister Ailyah, or mommy? I said, well, I don’t know,
Lucas, who would you be? He said, why either be Antonio
Brown, his favorite football player, or a homeless person. I said, a homeless person why? He said, well, because then I
would know what it feels like, and I could grow up to
do something about it. His sister, my daughter
Ailyah who’s 12, she’s been a homeless advocate
since she was a child. Ever since she was
five or six years old she’d break open her
piggy bank in the morning and put change in
a baggie to give to the homeless man
who is on the off ramp on the way to school. And one day we were
walking down the street and a man said to me, sir
can you spare a dollar? And I said, I’m sorry
sir I can’t help you, and we kept on walking. And I felt this tug on my
sleeve, and I looked down, and it was my daughter. And she said, daddy? And I said, yeah baby? She said, daddy,
doesn’t that man need a dollar more than you? And I thought to myself,
of course he does. And I thought to myself,
where did she learn that? She learned it from me, and
she learned it from her mother, Illy. And she learned these
things from her parents, but it was a reminder
to me that all of us, all of us if we don’t
guard against indifference can forget the values we
hold dearest, the values we teach our own children. It’s a lesson that I understand
not only about my children, it’s a lesson about life. It’s a lesson about the work
we do in the criminal justice system. The nation was awakened a
little over two and half years ago to a cruel reality that
equal justice in America doesn’t really exist. We were awakened to it when
the news of the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson,
Missouri took to social media. And then from there news of
Eric Garner’s death, being choked to death, in New York. 12-year-old Tamir Rice being
shot in Cleveland, Ohio. Sandra bland dying
down in Texas. Freddie Gray in Baltimore. We’ve been awakened to the fact
that some communities simply aren’t seen as human. Some communities are treated
much more brutally in America. And I think we come to believe
that’s a problem about abuse of policing. And it is, but we
have to remember that for every person
shot and killed by a police officer in America,
tens of thousands are arrested. They are thrown into a
criminal justice system. They are processed
into cells frequently with a heroic public defender,
but a public defender who is overwhelmed, beaten
down, and under-resourced. That routine injustice,
that injustice that flies under the radar, that
is crippling poor communities across America. It’s that routine injustice
that the public defenders deal with every day. Last September a man
named Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed in
Charlotte, North Carolina. And I’m sure you all heard about
it because the protests were broadcast across the nation. And while those
protests were going on a 9-year-old girl,
Zianna Oliphant, testified before the
Charlotte city council. She talked about how she
knew at the age of nine that her community
wasn’t respected. She said we are black
people, and we deserve to be treated with rights. It broke my heart to see a
9-year-old girl who understood, at such a tender age, that
she came from a community that didn’t matter, certainly not
as much as other communities. It made me think of
Illy’s story because when Illy and I co-founded
Gideon’s Promise, I came at it from the
perspective of a lawyer who saw lawyers as a
critical vehicle to ensuring that
justice is done. Illy wasn’t a lawyer,
she was a schoolteacher. She got involved in this
work because as a child she was like young
Zianna Oliphant. She had experiences
that made her realize her community didn’t matter. At the age of five her
father went to prison after being accused
of a crime that he had committed years earlier. Years before he
married her mother, years before he opened
up a fish market, years before he had three
children with a fourth on the way. He was given a court
appointed lawyer that never told his story. And without his
story being told it was easy to usher him
into a prison cell. Illy’s youngest
sibling, her brother, himself now has grown up to be
incarcerated despite the fact that he went to Cornell. And she helped raise him
and brought him to college. She couldn’t help him avoid
the criminal justice system, and he’s locked up now. Every man in her life has been
in the criminal justice system. Children across America, like
Illy, like Zianna Oliphant, understand that the
injustice isn’t just flowing from police killings. They learn it through our
criminal justice system. They learn it when they
see the people they love funneled through courtrooms. Every day they watch fathers and
mothers and uncles processed. – They learn it when they have
to speak to their loved ones through thick glass
on telephones. They know that their
loved ones are warehoused in intolerable conditions. And if they ever
get out many of them won’t be able to return to
their homes, or their jobs. They won’t be able to vote,
or get educational loans. Many of them will be
rendered homeless. If they happen to
not be citizens they may be pried
from their families and sent away perhaps never
to see their children again. The criminal justice
system is wreaking havoc on our most marginalized
communities. It is, I would
argue, the greatest challenge we face
today as Americans. In America we have 2.3
million people locked up in prison, seven million
people under some form of control in the criminal
justice system at any given time. People are warehoused
in cells that none of us would want to spend a day in. And yet where’s the outrage? We couldn’t do that to people
if we saw them as human beings. In Arizona, up until recently,
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was the leading voice
of the criminal justice system there. He recently got
voted out of office, but he was elected
popularly six times on a tough-on-crime platform. He built tent cities in
the sweltering desert heat. Tent cities to house pretrial
detainees who weren’t even convicted of crimes. He forced them to wear
pink underwear because in his mind that
somehow was an effort to shred them of every shred
of humanity that they had. And here in California, in
2012, inmates across the state went on a hunger strike. Some wouldn’t eat
for up to 60 days. They were literally
saying I’d rather be dead than housed
in these conditions. We couldn’t do that to people
if we saw them as human beings. Some of you may have
watched the story on TV of Kalief Browder,
a 16-year-old boy who was accused of stealing a
backpack in New York City. He went to Rikers Island, the
detention center in New York, and he was given a bond that his
family couldn’t afford to pay. So he stayed there
for three years maintaining his innocence. He spent roughly two and
a half of those years in solitary confinement. He endured beatings at the
hands of guards and inmates. And then after three years
when the state couldn’t produce the evidence
to bring him to trial, his case was dismissed. But the damage was done. Kalief Browder went home. Two years later his mother
found him after he hung himself. Where were all of
the men and women responsible for
overseeing justice in America while this was
happening to Kalief Browder? They couldn’t have
stood by if they truly saw him as a human being. Mayra Machado was 31 years
old when she was deported back to El Salvador. She moved here when
she was five years old. She didn’t know life
anywhere but America. As a teenager she
made a stupid mistake and passed some bad checks. She spent some time
in a boot camp. And more than a decade later
she was living her life with three children when
she was pulled over. And based on her
prior conviction held in a detention
facility for over a year. Just this year she was
deported back to El Salvador. Her children lost their mother. We couldn’t do that to people
if we saw them as human beings. The damage that was done
to Ms. Machado family started when she went into
a criminal justice system. Advocates who understand the
consequences of going through the system, who speak
up for individuals, who make decisions
that will protect them, not only while they’re going
through the criminal justice system, but beyond, are
the key to saving lives, like Ms Machado’s. But we simply
don’t have the will to make sure those
advocates are supported. There is an African
proverb that says, until the lion learns
to write, the story will always glorify the hunter. There are communities across
America who are preyed upon. Their humanity is
defined by others because they’re
not given the voice to help shape their own stories. They’re not given the voice
because the public defenders, who are responsible
for speaking for 80 percent of the people in
the criminal justice system, have been beaten
down and overwhelmed. In 1963, this man, Clarence
Earl Gideon, his case went to the Supreme Court. And the Supreme
Court used that case to say that lawyers are the
vehicle necessary to ensure that justice is
done in the courts. That we can’t have
justice without lawyers. That our system of
laws and procedure are just too complicated for a
lay person to maneuver alone. We see Gideon versus
Wainwright narrowly as a case about providing
counsel to individuals when they’re in trouble. But I would suggest to you that
looking at that case that way is too narrow. We have to understand
Gideon versus Wainwright in the context of the times. It was decided in 1963. The same year as the
March on Washington. The same year as many
civil rights milestones. The same year that as a nation
we were grappling with the fact that we were depriving
basic civil and human rights to huge populations of
people in all walks of life. In education, in commerce,
in transportation, in voting rights, and
not least among them in the criminal justice system. Gideon versus Wainwright
is a civil rights case. It belongs on that
menu of legislation in Supreme Court cases that
define our civil rights landscape. And when seen that
way, the lawyers who represent people in
the criminal justice system are doing our most
important civil rights work. As I mentioned, more
than 80% of the people in the criminal justice
system are poor, disproportionately they
are people of color. The criminal justice
system is rendering them second class citizens. There is no greater civil
rights crisis facing us. Five years after that
march on Washington, the Memphis sanitation
workers took to the streets with signs saying, I am man. A very simple message
recognizing we’re simply not being
treated as human beings. Treat us as human beings. And we like to think
that we’ve overcome that. But aren’t activists
in the streets today carrying signs simply
saying, Black Lives Matter. Aren’t they saying
the same thing? Aren’t they saying, we
still aren’t truly seen as full human beings? Hands reach out in our
criminal justice system desperately needing help. And the public defender
is the advocate responsible for
giving them that help. But all across the country
our public defenders are overwhelmed. This picture of a public
defender surrounded by files shows how overwhelmed so
many public defenders are. But keep in mind every one of
those files is a human being. Every one of those
files is a person who won’t get the care, the
attention, the protection we would all expect
for our loved ones. I was thinking about
this when I was watching a video of a man who
was one of the leaders of the indigent defense
community in Tennessee. He was the public
defender who was elected by all of the other
Tennessee public defenders to speak for them. He was the president
of the Public Defender Conference in Tennessee. And he was at a
budget hearing, and he was asked a very
simple question, do you have enough resources? He said, well, let me tell
you, I oversee a district with five counties. I have five courthouses. He said, I have five lawyers. I have one investigator. Last year we closed 4,000 cases,
that’s 800 cases per lawyer. And he went on to say,
so let me assure you there is one district in
Tennessee that has enough. We’re blessed. I have seen your lawyers. They’re efficient. They are good at
processing cases. That’s the language he used to
describe the work of his staff. And I think to
myself when I watched that video, there’s
no doubt in my mind that man didn’t come out of
law school 30 years ago saying, you know what I want
to do with my life? I think I want to help process
800 people a year into prison cells. He was shaped over
time into a lawyer that he never would have
recognized as a law student. Not because he’s a bad
person, but because he is a product of a system
that simply doesn’t really care about equal justice. And so that brings me
to Gideon’s Promise. That was the challenge that Illy
and I were thinking about when we started this organization. And it is an
organization designed not just to train
lawyers on the law, not just to give
them legal skills, but to build a community
to help them resist those pressures to
abandon the values that made them want to do this
work in the first place. It’s a community that
gives them strategies to resist those pressures
today and to be advocates to challenge the assumptions
that others in the system have that lead to the injustice. At the heart of our program
is a three year program for new lawyers that we
call our Core 101 Program. For three years new lawyers
go through a program where they receive training
and mentorship and support. It starts with a
two week boot camp where they come together to
learn and to community-build and to build support. And then they go
back to their offices and they’re given mentors. And we have an online community,
and they support one another. But we also recognized, as
our first classes started to graduate, that if we didn’t
continue to support them, the cultures they returned
to would soon shape them. And so we developed
a graduate program. And the graduate
program was designed to groom them into the
trainers and the mentors that the younger lawyers
desperately needed. We develop the
leadership program, so we could bring the
heads of their offices, the chief defenders,
together every six months to think about how to
support these lawyers. We developed a trainer
development program, so we could get
trainers and supervisors to learn the curriculum and
support what we were teaching back in the office. And we developed a
law clerk program, so we could bring the
brightest law students from around the country
to Mississippi and Georgia and Alabama and Tennessee to
support these young lawyers. But all of those
programs weren’t only designed to support
these young lawyers who were the future of
criminal justice reform. They were also designed to
transform the existing system. The graduate program also
has an external component where we’re grooming
those graduates into tomorrow’s leaders. The Law Clerk
Program, not only are they coming to support our
lawyers during the summer, but they’re starting to
build avenues, channels, so they can come to
the public defender offices with the greatest need. They can become part of this
movement that we’re building. The leaders aren’t
only learning how to support their
lawyers in the office and change the
culture in the office, but they’re learning
how to advocate for reform in the
communities where they work. And in our training
development program, we’re not just teaching
trainers to support our lawyers in our program, but
they’re learning how to export this model
and to take it back to systems across the country. When you look at all of
the offices we’ve touched, we have literally had a hand in
helping shape indigent defense in 27 states across America. There is no question
with the human resources we are developing
through our programming, that we could scale this model. We have scaled this model
from two states to 27. The only limit to how far
we can go is resources. But it’s also
important to understand that not only are we trying
to scale, not only are we trying to grow our
reach, it is critical that we also focus on depth. Because to change culture
you can’t just touch a lawyer and send them back to a state. You’ve got to hold on to them. You can’t touch them. You have to embrace them. You have to wrap your
arms around them. You have to support them,
as they develop into leaders that you desperately need. So not only have we touched
offices across 27 states, we actually have partnerships
where we have sustained relationships with over 40
county-level offices across 16 states. We have a state-wide
partnership in Maryland. We have literally worked
with every public defender in the state of Maryland. And we’re in the process of
forging statewide partnerships in Virginia and in Michigan. The impact has been tremendous. And we know that the
impact has been tremendous from several sources. We know the impact
has been tremendous from our own
lawyers’ experiences. For example, there’s a
young woman in Georgia, named Janelle. Janelle was one of
our earliest lawyers in one of our earliest classes. And she came to Georgia
because, as she says, I wanted to represent
people that looked like me. Janelle grew up in
Brooklyn, New York in an African-American
community. She went to Spelman College and
Howard Law School, both HBCUs. She became a public
defender because she wanted to represent people of color. And she joined our
program, and she happened to be getting placed
in Bartow County Georgia, which is about 45 minutes
outside of Atlanta, but it may as well
be hours away. Almost all of her
clients were white. She was the only
African-American woman attorney in the county. She talks about how she would
walk into the courtroom, with her briefcase and
her suit, and how long it took before the
bailiff stopped asking her where her lawyer was. And one day Janelle
called me up because she was trying to grapple
with a particular problem. She had a juvenile client who
was going to be sentenced. And she had a
statute, and she was convinced that this statute made
clear that the judge couldn’t detain this young man. But she said she’d been
talking to senior lawyers in the county, and they said
that that argument would never work. They said don’t
even bring it up. The judge will laugh at you. And she called to say,
what do you think? And she talked to me, and
several other of our mentors, and we all came to
the same conclusion. Of course you have
to bring it up. The statute is clear,
and she steeled herself. And she walked into the
courtroom, and she stood up, and she made the argument. As she made the argument,
she heard snickers in the background from some
of the more seasoned lawyers. And then the judge
granted her motion. And the snickering stopped. But not only did Janelle
disrupt a system of injustice when she did that,
she began transforming that system of justice. You see, some of
those lawyers who were laughing in the audience
now file that very motion. How else do we know
we have impact? We recently worked with an
organization called Measures for Justice, under a grant
from the Department of Justice to look at the outcomes
that our lawyers receive. And the initial findings
seem quite positive. Measures for Justice looked at
three of our partner offices in Tennessee, Memphis;
Knoxville; and Nashville. And compared it to a test
office in Chattanooga. And what the preliminary finding
suggests is that our lawyers– their clients are more likely
to get pretrial diversion. They are less likely
to plead guilty. They’ve closed
more cases quickly, meaning people weren’t
languishing in jail. That their clients are
incarcerated less often. Those outputs matter. We also know because the leaders
who partner with us tell us so. As a matter of fact, I get
these emails all the time. Illy gets these
e-mails all the time. Just last week, I
share this one with you because it’s literally
the most recent. I got an email from
Fielding Pringle, she’s the chief public defender
in Columbia, South Carolina. They joined our partnership
about three years ago. She wrote to tell me
that, before they joined Gideon’s Promise, they would
lose somewhere between five to nine lawyers a
year in an office that only had 25 to 30 lawyers. But she said, since we joined
Gideon’s Promise, in 2014 we lost two lawyers. In 2015 we only
lost two lawyers. In 2016 only one
lawyer left our office. And she went on to say,
“The impact of retention on the quality of
representation, continuity of
representation, morale, organizational structure,
and overall smooth-running of my office has improved
dramatically as a result. I attribute this change to
better hiring practices, but also, and largely, to the
culture shift that the Gideon’s Promise attorneys have
brought to our office and our community.” She said, “They are different
kind of public defender, and they infuse the
attorneys around them with their spirit, their
confidence, their commitment, their excitement,
and their drive. They are a changing force.” This matters. And so this picture,
and then I’m going to wrap up
with the last story, this picture is
a picture of some of our lawyers at
our last gathering. We get together every six months
and bring all of our lawyers together. And a couple of years ago, as
the lawyers leave each other, some go back to pretty remote
places with little support. And a couple of years
ago one of the lawyers suggested we should end our
meetings with a group hug. And he stood up, and
he got in the middle, and he encouraged
everyone to come in. And he brought in one lawyer
who was feeling particularly lonely, and brought her in
the middle, and he hugged her. And everyone hugged around her. And it became a tradition
because, what these lawyers really understand, is
the love and support they feel when
they get together, that has to be sustained. They have to feel that when they
go back to their jurisdictions. They have to feel that when
they’re at their lowest moment because this battle
is too important and their work is too important. If they are to stand next to
clients and give them voice, if they are to infuse
the system with humanity, they know they
can’t do it alone. And so this is my final story
and then I’m going to wrap up. Every year Illy I
get phone calls. All of our mentors
get phone calls. Because we have young lawyers
that come down to Oxford, Mississippi and they spend two
weeks in the initial two week program, and they get fired up. And they think they
can change the world, and they feel like they’ve got
all the support in the world. And they go back
to their offices. And then they start
to feel defeated. And within a couple of weeks
the phone starts ringing. And the calls go something
like this, they’ll call and they’ll say, hey Rap,
everyone calls me Rap. Hey Rap, I think I need to quit. I feel defeated. I’ve got 300 cases. I now know would
every client deserves, but I just simply
can’t give it to them. And I share with them
a story from a book I read called “Freedom
Summer,” written by a man named Bruce Watson, where he tells
the story of that amazing summer project in 1964. Where young people, college
students from around the country, came to Mississippi
to register people to vote, to build freedom
schools, to help people pass literacy tests. And Bruce Watson tells
his story through the eyes of people who were there,
now after interviewing them 40 years later. And you learn through this
book that these young folks, they went down to
Mississippi thinking they could change the world,
and one after the other, they started to find doors
being slammed in their faces. They started to have
people tell them, I can’t be seen talking to you,
my life could be in danger. They started to get discouraged. As the summer went on
they said things like, maybe this was a
mistake, maybe my family was right, maybe
none of this matters. And Bruce Watson fast forwards
40 years to a conversation with Congressman
John Lewis, who was one of the architects
of Freedom Summer. And Congressman
Lewis says, you know, if it weren’t for
Freedom Summer, Barack Obama wouldn’t
be in the White House. Quite literally, he was
saying that sometimes change is so incremental, that
those most involved in it don’t even recognize
they’re doing it. And we share that
story with our lawyers. And we say to our lawyers,
when you walk into a courtroom, and you see a judge
who simply wants you to sit down and shut up. Who simply wants you to go
along with the processing. And you stand up and you say,
Judge, I’m not doing it today. When you refuse
to participate you may not get the tangible result
that your client wants, or even deserves. But when you do that,
and your colleagues are doing that in a
courtroom next door, and another group are doing
it in the next county over, and another group in
the next state over, collectively you are
raising expectations about what justice should
look like for poor people. Collectively. You’re not just disrupting. You are transforming criminal
justice collectively. You are changing and challenging
the assumptions of the people who make decisions about
those most impacted by our criminal justice system. So I will end by
saying, my guess is many of you heard my
friend Brian Stevenson give a talk here. And one thing Brian talks
about his proximity. And I want to just
emphasize that proximity is more than just
getting spatially close to another person. Our courtrooms are filled
with judges and prosecutors and probation officers who
are spatially close to people they are processing in
the cells for intolerable amounts of time. Proximity is more than
just standing near someone, it’s getting to know someone. It’s getting to
understand who they are. It’s getting to understand
what they want out of life. It’s learning the skills
to tell their story. It is making other
people, not just get near those impacted
by their decisions, but truly understand those
impacted by their decisions. In our criminal justice
system we quite literally can’t do that without
public defenders. They are the vehicle that
forces us to get proximate to people whose lives are
otherwise being thrown away. And so I want to end by saying,
thank you so much for having me and Illy here in Silicon Valley. It’s an honor to be here
because you all really are dealing with some of the world’s
most intractable problems. You have some of the
most creative minds. You’re coming up with some of
the most amazing solutions. Technology can solve a lot
of problems, as Steve said. But it’s critical
that we remember, as we think about how to use
technology to solve problems, we don’t lose sight of
the humanity of the people impacted. And it takes boots
on the ground married with the brilliance
of places like Google to make sure equal
justice is a reality. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

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