In 1963, the US Supreme Court decided the landmark case of Gideon v. Wainwright. The ruling was simple: in felony cases, people who cannot afford a lawyer must be provided one. Most states responded by creating offices for public defenders to defend poor people charged with serious crimes. But Gideon’s promise has not been fulfilled. Too many public defenders are little more than speed bumps on an indigent’s journey to conviction. Every year hundreds of innocent indigents are swept away in the crushing tide of a system strained to the breaking point. The reality is that innocents may spend decades in jail, many who are guilty are not brought to justice, and faith in the fairness and competency of the criminal justice system is ever more questioned.