A Story of Justice and RedemptionBook - 2014
From the critics
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“You can’t understand most of the important things from a distance, Bryan. You have to get close,” - p. 14
“…the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.” - p. 18
“The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving. It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent—strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering. It has the power to heal the psychic harm and injuries that lead to aggression and violence, abuse of power, mass incarceration.” - p. 294
“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”
My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.
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The American prison system has critical flaws, and in combination with the racial prejudices in the American South, it has created the perfect storm to sentence Walter McMillian, an innocent black man, with the death penalty. Bryan Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit organization with the intent of advocating for both prisoners’ rights and pushing for softer sentences on dehumanized criminals, and defending Walter McMillian is no exception. Although proving McMillian’s innocence is the key case in the book, it is not the only topics; Stevenson also covers the lack of support for mentally disabled people in America, the double-edged sword that is the American media, and his ideas on why the American justice system has been biased against African Americans for decades. Overall, the book is a greatly emotional read, but much of the scenes in the book can be sensitive and/or disturbing, ranging from lynching to rape.
As a young law student, Bryan Stevenson was somewhat adrift at Harvard Law School, unsure of his direction or his future. He wanted to do something that would help people, but he was having trouble connecting his theoretical education with meaningful action. Then, an internship at the Southern Prisoner’s Defence Committee led to work helping inmates on death row in the Deep South. Most of these prisoners were indigent, and could not afford legal counsel to help review or appeal their cases. The experience made a profound impression, and led him to found the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama in 1994. Stevenson would go on to appeal countless death sentences, and challenge the practice of sentencing minors to life without parole. Just Mercy recounts his experiences representing people who have been written off by society.
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