Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015
“The Equal Justice Initiative is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.”
Part personal memoir, part the account of one man’s journey from death row to freedom, and part expose on a confused and uncertain justice system this book will likely change how think about the purpose of our justice system. From the author’s definition of poverty as the opposite not of wealth by the opposite of justice (18) I was hooked and could hardly put the book down.
The author’s personal encounter with wrongfully convicted death row inmates leads to a discovery that changed how he viewed the world. He invites his readers to join him on this journey with vivid prose as he tells the story of person after person who experienced the worst our justice system can do. He shares statistics that reveal how confused our justice system has become and how difficult real justice can be to find. Weaving the strands of his own journey, the journey of Walter McMillan, and several juveniles arrested and housed in adult prisons with observations about how the justice system works for some but not all make for compelling reading.
There are two observations after reading. First, I was simply unaware of how grossly unfair our justice system had become under the ‘Jim Crow’ system on the South and how deeply entrenched that system had become. I have spent over 40 years living the Pacific Northwest and was blissfully ignorant of how unjust the system had become to people of color and any group marginalized by systemic abuse, poverty, and injustice.
Second, I was reminded again of the power of one individual with a dream and a passion. Most of us – myself included – may never impact the culture as Bryan Stevenson has, but with a dream and a passion we can make a difference – even if it is for just one person.