Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (2014), 336 pages
If you’re like me, you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid much interaction with the criminal justice system. You may hope, as I always have, that it operates fairly and justly. But as I learned from Bryan Stevenson’s memoir of his work as an attorney and social justice activist, there are many ways in which our courts and prisons are as flawed and broken as human nature is. Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization with many related causes surrounding criminal justice reform and issues of race and poverty. In this book Stevenson details his early struggles as a lawyer representing innocent people on death row, children sentenced to life in prison, and convicted criminals battling poverty, abuse, and mental illness who were not giving fair treatment by their appointed lawyers or the court system. Each true story Stevenson highlights is more heartbreaking than the last. Even though some of Stevenson’s clients have been guilty of crimes, I felt sympathy for those who got more severe and lengthy sentences than their crimes seem to warrant. Stevenson comes to the conclusion that we humans are all broken in our own ways and that our brokenness is what connects us. He believes that mercy is most powerful and most precious when it is given to those who don’t deserve it. This moving book will open your eyes and make you see the world and human nature with sobering clarity and an unexpected hope for justice and mercy.
-Teresa Moulton, Public Service Leader