“Bryan Stevenson is America’s young Nelson Mandela, a brilliant lawyer fighting with courage and conviction to guarantee justice for all. Just Mercy should be read by people of conscience in every civilized country in the world to discover what happens when revenge and retribution replace justice and mercy. It is as gripping to read as any legal thriller, and what hangs in the balance is nothing less than the soul of a great nation.”
— Archbishop Desmond Tutu
We have long admired the work of Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. So when we read his new book, ‘Just Mercy,’ we did not expect to be even more moved by the difficult path he has chosen: challenging the death penalty, prison sentences for children and the incarceration of those with mental illness.
We also did not think we could be more outraged by the brokenness of the criminal justice system, until reading Stevenson’s moving account of the men, women and children he has stood beside during his decades-long struggle for justice.
But most importantly, we did not expect to feel such hope — to see that with great personal sacrifice and perseverance, one person can and has changed the system.
That’s why we invite you to read ‘Just Mercy’ with us and then have a discussion about the important work being done by Bryan Stevenson at Equal Justice Initiative, public defenders in Memphis and advocates around the country. Pick up a copy at Burke’s Book Store or at The Booksellers at Laurelwood and sign up at the link below to have your book club considered.
We’ll choose one book club each month. An attorney from the Law Offices of the Shelby County Public Defender will join your club to answer questions about the criminal justice system that Stevenson explores in Just Mercy and discuss what we can all do to make Memphis a more just community.
A media release from the State of Tennessee acknowledges that the state’s sentencing structure has not been changed in more than two decades. Tennessee joins a number of states re-examining outdated sentencing laws, but today’s story in the Commercial Appeal reveals that some are concerned about which groups are not adequately represented in this reform effort.
The story, by reporter Samantha Bryson, looks at both the racial disparity on the task force and the lack of perspective from an important justice reform voice — defense attorneys.
“Only one person on the committee, Cannon County Public Defender Gerald Melton, currently works at the defense side of the table. Police chiefs, judges, sheriffs and district attorneys account for 18 of its members, who serve alongside other lawmakers and a victim’s rights advocate. There appear to be no ex-offenders or advocacy groups for ex-offenders represented. The group is also about 90 percent white and overwhelmingly Republican, in a state where 44 percent of its 30,349 inmates are black.” – ‘Haslam’s Sentencing Reforms Committee is Short on Defense Attorneys,” The Commercial Appeal.
You can read the complete article here. (Paywall)
Click here to read an editorial by prominent Memphis defense attorney, Michael Working.
You can also click here to see the list of those serving on the task force.