Friday, April 21, 2017

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Bryan told Rosa Parks the details of his job, that he was trying to "help people on death row, stop the death penalty, do something about prison conditions and excessive punishment. We want to free people who've been wrongly convicted. We want to end unfair sentences in criminal cases and stop racial bias in criminal justice. We're trying to help the poor and mentally ill and stop putting children in adult prisons" and she said, "ooooh honey, all that's going to make you tired, tired, tired." Which Bryan's friend chimes in and says, "that's why you've got to be brave, brave, brave."

I remember taking a philosophy type class in college and we discussed the death penalty but more than anything I remember that we talked about the cost of the penalty (which is a big problem), but not necessarily race or criminal injustice that I saw while reading this book. Maybe we did talk about it and I was not fully engaged or aware because I'm this white American girl from a privileged background. I know that there are still issues with race and class today but this was another eye opener of how far we still have to go.

Basically this book was a pound in the head that wow you have got this really easy, Julia. The book is story after story of criminal injustice where some people spent up to 50 years in prison and many were executed for crimes they either didn't commit, too young to be put on death row, or mentally unstable for such a crime. Not to mention all the awful conditions and experiences while they were in prison that made it even worse. I just wanted to cry for all of them. 

It was heartbreaking to see people get released from prison after they were wrongly convicted but then society couldn't get pass their so-called crime and thus he/she became broken by the experience. 

This is a topic that we need to be talking and doing more about. If anything, this book made more aware of unfairness there is in society. And like Bryan said, "our silence condemns us." 

Some quotes:

"We're supposed to sentence people fairly after fully considering their life circumstances, but instead we exploit the inability of the poor to get the legal assistance they need-all so we can kill them with less resistance. 

Thomas Merton: "I'd always known but never fully considered that being broken is what makes us human...sometimes we're fractured by the choices we make; sometimes we're shattered by things we would never have chosen. But our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity and the basis of our shared search for source of comfort, meaning, and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion."

"Racial terrorism of lynching in many ways created the modern death penalty."

"Older people in the South complain after speeches talking about how were dealing with domestic terrorism for the first time in the U.S. after 9/11 attacks. 'You make them stop saying that! We grew up with terrorism all the time. The police, the Klan, anybody who was white could terrorize you. We had to worry about bombings and lynchings, racial violence of all kind.'"

This a great 3 minute clip about the criminal injustice Bryan sees:

Here's his powerful TED talk:

Highly, highly, recommend this book!

1 comment:

  1. What a powerful book. Thanks for sharing that link to that clip about Bryan Stevenson's thoughts on criminal injustice. Need to add that to my list.