Just Mercy: Issues in the Justice System and the Call for Empathy

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Exploring Correctional Issues in the Criminal Justice System
  • Mercy and Empathy Over Punishment
  • Conclusion
  • References


Throughout the first eight chapters of Just Mercy you see many different correctional issues such as racial profiling, cruel and unusual punishment, and examples of the positivist and classical side of corrections. Starting with Walters and Charlie’s cases we are presented with a man and a child. The man named Walter is on death row for a crime he did not commit but is being accused of doing it by Ralph Myers. And Charlie who is a juvenile that killed his mother's abusive boyfriend. Both of these individuals are African American living in a time when a lot of the correctional system was racially discriminating against people of color.

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During that time people of color were being discriminated against, and correctional systems took on more of the positivist point of view. In Walters case he is being accused of a crime he did not commit. The officers felt the pressure to find the criminal so with no evidence of him doing the crime and Walters even having an alibi he was still the main suspect . The correctional system was feeling rushed to find a perpetrator they convicted him with no evidence whatsoever. This shows that the criminal justice system wasn’t trying to find who actually did the crime instead they were concerned with finding someone to convict for the crime in a timely manner.

Exploring Correctional Issues in the Criminal Justice System

“Death row is the most restrictive punitive confinement permitted. Prisoners are locked in a small cell by themselves for twenty-three hours a day. Condemned inmates have limited opportunity for exercise or visitation and are held in disturbingly close proximity to the electric chair”(pg 112). Even some of the death row inmates were shocked that Walters and Ralph are going to be held on death row, because they were barely going through pretrial. This shows that their convictions were already decided before they saw a judge. The way Stevenson describes the yellow electric chair brings in a visual representation of what the people incarcerated saw. In Chapter two in the Stohr& Walsh book we talked about how cells and the way a cell is constructed ,this can either be a punishment type of cell or a rehabilitation type. In this case I see this as a punishment type of cell because they are Locked up for 23 hours and also have to hear a yellow electric chair nearby, constantly reminding them of their demise.

Mercy and Empathy Over Punishment

Stevenson ultimately argues that society should choose empathy and mercy over condemnation and punishment. “Charlie was fourteen years old. He weighed less than 100 pounds and was just five feet tall. He didn’t have any juvenile criminal history—no prior arrests, no misconduct in school, no delinquencies or prior court appearances.”(pg 239). In the eyes of Stevenson Charlie is a little boy who doesn’t have any criminal history. In which they should charge Charlie with a more empathetic approach.


Stevenson is taking more of a classical approach because he believes that the crime should match the punishment or even a little more harsher. He does not believe in punishment or condemnation because those are to him hurting a man’s will. In the classical approach people have the free will to decide whether or not to commit a crime weighting cost over benefit in Charlie’s case he had the choice of killing his mother's boyfriend or not , he chose to look at him and kill him. By the way the correctional system disregarded the fact that the mother was being domestically abused just because the boyfriend was a cop shows that the correctional system doesn’t care about people's mental health issues more so the status quo of keeping up the police image.


  1. Stohr, M. K., & Walsh, A. (2018). Corrections: from research, to policy, to practice. Los Angeles: SAGE.
  2. STEVENSON, B. R. Y. A. N. (2019). Just Mercy: a story of justice and redemption. S.l.: SCRIBE PUBLICATIONS.   

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