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What it takes to be a great public defender

CUNY Law’s public defenders ask Steve Zeidman what it takes to be a great public defender, and he doesn’t miss a beat.

“It takes an enduring sense of outrage. It takes a lot of passion,” says Professor Zeidman, the director of CUNY law’s Criminal defense Clinic, adding with quiet intensity, “and just a great sense of humility.”

It’s the convictions, the staggering rate and sheer number of imprisoned people — overwhelmingly poor people and people of color — that generate the outrage, says Zeidman, who runs the clinic with Clinical Professors Nicole Smith futrell and donna lee.

There are 2.3 million incarcerated people in the United States and another 5 million on probation or parole.