Jon Rapping at the 2017 Uncharted Berkeley Festival of Ideas. Photo: Pete Rosos

Most of us are familiar with public defenders from TV shows, but do we really understand the crucial role they play in the justice system? In fact, they represent 80% of people charged in the system and provide legal representation to defendants who cannot afford private attorneys. However, they are often so overwhelmed by crushing caseloads that they’re unable to provide their clients with the bare minimum representation required by the Constitution.

Jon Rapping founded Gideon’s Promise in 2007 to change the public defense landscape across America. His goal is to groom a generation of public defenders to rise up and fight systemic inequity, and provide higher quality legal representation to marginalized communities.

In October 2017, Rapping sat down with Zachary Norris, Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, at the Uncharted Berkeley Festival of Ideas in Berkeley. Uncharted is a production of Berkeleyside.

The pair talked what led Rapping to take up his mission and how he sees criminal justice system reform happening.

Berkeleyside’s 28th episode of the Uncharted Berkeley podcast has just been released and it features that conversation. Each episode of the podcast is one of the conversations recorded at the Uncharted Berkeley Festival of Ideas which takes place every year in Berkeley, and is produced by Berkeleyside.

The 2018 Uncharted Ideas Festival is on Oct. 5-6 at the Berkeley Rep and Freight & Salvage in downtown Berkeley. Tickets are available now. This year’s program will be announced later this summer.

Berkeleyside will be releasing more conversations from the 2017 festival as podcasts over the coming weeks. Subscribe to the Uncharted Berkeley podcast, on iTunes or wherever you find your podcasts.

Berkeleyside is Berkeley, California’s independently-owned local news site. Learn more about the Berkeleyside team. Questions? Email