Concerts for Indigent Defense engages the public, through live music, to celebrate and support the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous 1963 opinion in Gideon v. Wainwright which declared the right to counsel a fundamental constitutional right.
WE CELEBRATED THE 60TH ANNIVERSARY OF GIDEON V. WAINWRIGHT ON MARCH 18, 2023 WITH A NATIONWIDE MUSICAL CALL FOR CRIMINAL JUSTICE
On March 18, 2023, musicians across the county presented “Concerts for Indigent Defense”. These shows energized advocates, built power, and educated the public about the critical importance – and consistent neglect – of the constitutional right to a criminal defense lawyer for people who can’t afford their own. Every year, to celebrate the anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright. Concerts for Indigent Defense provides us all with an important opportunity to remind our communities, courts, and policymakers about this essential element of the possibility of justice dispensed by our criminal courts.
Concerts for Indigent Defense unites us in respect for the Constitution. It provides a platform for us all to come together, to call for – and strengthen – respect for this constitutional right.
Because if the criminal process starts with disrespect for the Constitution, what can we say about criminal justice in America?
The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously established the constitutional right to counsel in 1963’s Gideon v. Wainwright decision because accused persons cannot properly present their court case in ways that would enable judges to dispense justice.
Yet while this fundamental right is strongly supported by the public nationwide, indigent defense is underfunded and under-resourced in states across the country. When poor people cannot meaningfully defend themselves against a prosecutor’s charges, criminal courts cannot properly dispense justice.
As a result, people are often unjustly incarcerated and separated from their families, jobs, and ability to pay their bills – and innocent people are wrongfully convicted – just because they are poor. The harms reverberate and compound throughout each impacted person’s life – as well as that of their family and community. This is not justice, but injustice. This constitutional right is so regularly neglected because most people are unaware of these unjust realities, and presume this constitutional right is enforced for all.
Concerts for Indigent Defense leverages Gideon’s anniversary by providing defenders, musicians, and justice advocates across the country with an extraordinary opportunity to help the public understand this problem – and build public and political support for the constitutional right to counsel.
Concerts for Indigent Defense are intended as attention-raisers, like Earth Day or wearing a ribbon or armband in support of an issue. They are rallying points that draw public, media, and policymaker attention to the constitutional right central to whether or not criminal courts dispense justice. When musicians designate their shows as a “Concert for Indigent Defense,” they enable local defenders and other justice advocates – across the country – to educate the public about this neglected constitutional right and its impacts; energize their supporters, and gain traction for improvements in their courtrooms, legislatures, and budgets.
As such, Concerts for Indigent Defense are intended as attentionraisers. The money flows as it would for any other concert. In some cases they might also serve as fundraisers as well, but the scale of neglect for this fundamental right is so large that only governments can properly address the underlying concern.
Idea, logistical challenges, launch, re-launch, pandemic, video, 60th. It grew at every step.
The initial concept of Concerts for Indigent Defense was in development for over a decade when the initial Concerts for Indigent Defense: New Orleans, was successfully presented in 2017. Co-produced by death row exoneree John Thompson, in coordination with the Orleans Public Defender, the celebration earned major television, radio, print and social media coverage. The demo proved successful, and we were planning nationwide rollout in 2018, in coordination with the National Association for Public Defense and others, when Mr. Thompson died later that year. With the loss of our friend and partner, the effort was paused.
On March 18, 2022, Concerts for Indigent Defense celebrated the 59th anniversary of Gideon nationwide, presenting a video montage of defender perspectives and music on the website (see below). The celebration was enthusiastically received by the defender community in states across the country and served as a kickoff to the live concerts we will present in celebration of Gideon’s 60th year – starting on March 30, featuring the livestreamed show of Walter Wolfman Washington at d.b.a. New Orleans. There will be concerts in states across the country throughout Gideon’s 60th anniversary year, culminating in Concerts for Indigent Defense being held nationwide on March 18, 2023, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the constitutional right to counsel.
Local, county, and state public defenders and other criminal justice organizations often have the most accessible information about how indigent defense is provided in their jurisdictions. You can find your local public defense providers through an internet search, or by contacting the appropriate judicial branch in your jurisdiction.
In addition, at the nationwide level, The National Association for Public Defense, which engages public defense professionals in America to address the systemic failure to provide the constitutional right to counsel, and to collaborate with diverse partners to bring meaningful access to justice for poor people.
The Sixth Amendment Center, which seeks to ensure that no person faces potential time in jail without fist having the aid of a lawyer with the time, ability, and resources to present an effective defense, as required under the United States Constitution.
To date, Concerts for Indigent Defense celebrating “Gideon’s 60th” are already in motion for Houston, New Orleans, New Mexico, Brooklyn, Denver, Boston, and Bridgeport, CT… And we’ve only just begin to line them up across the country!
We invite you to join the musicians, public defenders, and others across the country in our annual nationwide celebration of the importance of the constitutional right to counsel; the people that make it real; and the important impacts it has on people, justice, and the country we live in.
Please sign up below to connect with us, and support this collective effort to present live Concerts for Indigent Defense in states across the country, to secure broad public and political for a very American concept: Fundamental justice for all in our criminal justice system, which starts with respect for the constitutional right to counsel.
(And we promise, no emails will be shared, sold, or otherwise exploited for other purposes. That’s not how Concerts for Indigent Defense rolls…)
Countdown To The Show
March 30, 2022 @ 10:00pm EST – Virtual Show at ConcertsforIndigentDefense.org