Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Best for: Someone interested in reading about the people fighting injustice, and those they are fighting for (both the innocent and the not so innocent).
In a nutshell: Attorney Bryan Stevenson tells stories of his life fighting against a system set up to ignore the humanity in those who have been accused of – and sometimes committed – crimes.
Line that sticks with me: (It’s a long one)
“We emphasized the incongruity of not allowing children to smoke, drink, vote, drive without restrictions, give blood, buy guns, and a range of other behaviors because of their well-recognized lack of maturity and judgment while simultaneously treating some of the most at-risk, neglected, and impaired children exactly the same as full-grown adults in the criminal justice system.”
Why I chose it: My boss chose it as part of our equity and social justice book club.
Review: This is a fantastic book. It is easy to read despite the challenging content, and opened my eyes up to some of the bigger issues in criminal justice that I haven’t been focused on. Yes, there is a heavy emphasis on the injustice of capital punishment (a punishment I’ve been opposed to my whole life), but there’s also a focus on the injustice of shitty counsel, of trying and sentencing children as adults.
And it’s important to read stories that aren’t just about innocent men like Walter McMillian (whose story is followed throughout), but stories about people who have done things that they shouldn’t have, but who do not deserve to be thrown away or forgotten. Our justice system is deeply flawed. It’s flawed in many ways that are more by design than by accident.
This book will make you angry. It will make you sad. It will upset you, and at times maybe make you feel like the problems with the U.S. justice system are insurmountable. But then it will bring you back around, and realize that there are more Bryan Stevensons out there, fighting the good fights.