Review of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Updated: Aug 26, 2020
Fascinating and excruciating to read. Stevenson and his like-minded colleagues are true heroes.
It was excruciating to read some of the realities of our exceptionally unjust justice system, skewed against people of color and those without the means to effectively represent themselves.
In Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson recounts his efforts (along with those of his Equal Justice Initiative colleagues) to assist some of the countless incarcerated people in dire and heartbreaking situations--whether they are on death row after wrongful incarceration; on death row or imprisoned for life after being tried and convicted while children, but punished as though they were adults; incarcerated but should never have been placed in prison due to mental illness; or facing death after patently subpar and cursory trials, sometimes hinging on incorrect evidence or corrupt setups that occurred years or decades earlier.
Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) steps in and finds some success in chipping away at some of the many, many cases where the lawyers can potentially free people and make differences in lives--people who often emerge from prison with the complications of impaired health, community prejudice, and general difficulty adjusting to life beyond cell walls.
Along the way, Stevenson and EJI also doggedly manage to change some important laws that stop the imprisonment of minors in adult prisons and minors imprisoned for life; create the PREP program to help those incarcerated for long periods to reenter society with support; and build Montgomery's Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration.
Fascinating and excruciating to read. Stevenson and his like-minded colleagues are true heroes, and the issues he raises may make readers uncomfortable, but they're all worth looking at under a microscope and demanding the many changes in the legal system that are warranted.
What did you think?
I listened to this one as an audiobook and found it really powerful to hear Stevenson narrate.