Can an attorney handle more than 100 criminal cases at a time? That’s the reality for a public defender like Jeff Esparza, who represents defendants unable to afford their own lawyers in Kansas City. The public defender system in Missouri—and across the nation—is underfunded, understaffed and overworked. Attorneys say their clients are slipping through the cracks. The system fails people like Kevin Shepard, who sat in jail for months before ever meeting his overworked public defender. And Ricky Kidd, who spent much of his life behind bars, he says, because of his public defender’s mistakes.