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Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy: the Humanity in Justice

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • The Power of Just Mercy 
  • Bryan Stevenson's Humanizing Approach to Criminal Justice
  • Conclusion

Introduction

Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy, is very well written, and he puts a very real face to some of the people we in society would like to ignore. Stevenson humanizes those that we as a society have deemed as “criminals”. He challenges his audience and he encouraged me to see the humanity in all people, even those that have been sentenced to death. Just Mercy addressed many issues through Steven’s work. Each story that Stevenson tells is punctuated with the injustice in our justice system. He specifically comments on our criminal justice system and specifically our system of sentencing people to death. Stevenson writes about his work with prisoners on death row, fighting the death penalty and life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders, and confronted abuse of mentally ill, the mentally handicapped and children in prison. Steven relates an experience where he was held at gunpoint simply because there was a tip-off due to crimes happening in the neighborhood. 

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The Power of Just Mercy 

Stevenson had not done anything wrong, however, the officers who were trying to arrest him did. But Stevenson knew they were wrong, but in the moment, he remembered how frightened he was, but he had to remain calm. He recounted that if he was a teenager he wouldn’t have known what to do and he thought that “the more I thought about it, the more concerned I became about all the young black boys and men in that neighborhood. Did they know not to run?” (Stevenson, 43). Many stories circulate on the news about young black boys who are shot in nonviolent instances. The level of violence that is used with these black teenagers is not the same as that is used with white teenagers. Although America strives and prides on being progressive, there is always the underlying tone of racism, and it is this racism that negatively impacts many poor black people that are wrongly accused and convicted of a crime. Just Mercy changed how I see our justice systems. I used to think that the justice system was pretty fair and just because the law is something we look up to. However, after reading through the accounts of individuals, I realized the system was not what I thought it was. People of color are proportionality taken out of society and forced into bondage and indentured servitude systematically. I knew this to be true in a general way, but the implications of this truth had not sunken in with reality. 

Bryan Stevenson's Humanizing Approach to Criminal Justice

The so-called “just system” was ruled by personal biases and the overbearing systematic oppression. Stevenson opened my eyes to how our society labels criminals as the bad guys when in reality they are struggling with the oppression, abuse, mental illnesses, and poverty. The most important thing that Steven demonstrated through this book was how we are all broken and “there is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy… we begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us” (Stevenson, 290). 

Conclusion

Stevenson’s ability to exemplify hope through a hopeless system was exemplified through the pages. The frustration and anger of each of these “criminals” were explained and felt. But Stevenson reminded us that “each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done” (Stevenson, 17). Small moments of forgiveness and thoughtfulness teaches us that there's is hope and humanity we can find in the world, even if it’s unjust. Stevenson shows how he is fighting for civil and human rights of the prisoners in Alabama and for the policies that need changing. With people like Stevenson working to change the way the systems are, the system in Alabama was slowing improving. The Equal Justice Initiative had made a difference in Alabama and will continue to make a difference with Stevenson. 

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