Read with Us in the JustCity Book Club

stevenson
Bryan Stevenson, Author

“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.

 

Just Mercy Cover

 

Sign Up for the JustCity Book Club Here!

JustCity Roundtable: Public Defenders as Reformers in the Wake of Ferguson

Less than a week after the recent unrest began in Ferguson, Missouri, a determined group of young public defenders released a scathing white paper that exposed the widespread unfairness and oppressive nature of the municipal courts in St. Louis County. In the days since, much has been made of a system that disproportionately burdens poor people of color with fines, costs and fees and has likely contributed to continuing protests in the St. Louis area.

Arch City Defenders Flyer #ferguson

Join us after work in Memphis’ first maker space at Forge Memphis as we interview Thomas Harvey about his work on this issue and some of the reforms that are underway.

We only have 50 seats available — so RSVP with this Eventbrite!

The Arch City Defenders opened for business five years ago when each of its three founding attorneys still had day jobs. Their mission was to serve the homeless community in St. Louis, many of whom were struggling under unrealistic financial burdens imposed by the now-infamous municipal court systems of St. Louis County. This unique, non-profit law firm has grown into several employees and now occupies its founders full-time in a client-centered practice funded by contracts with local governments, grants and donations. They are a 501(c)(3) organization.

When ACD released the white paper in August, they found themselves in the national spotlight. The paper details the gross inequities of the more than 80 municipal court systems in St. Louis County that collect fines and fees from the area’s poorest residents. Some of these municipalities depend on this revenue to fund as much as half of their operations including police departments.  As a result of this eye-opening research and years of work in these courts, the attorneys of the Arch City Defenders have been featured by Newsweek, NBC, NPR, MSNBC, Huffington Post and the paper has led to reforms within some of the municipal governments, including Ferguson.

This JustCity Roundtable is hosted by the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office with generous support from Forge Memphis and the Assisi Foundation. The Roundtable is an occasional gathering of community leaders interested in leveraging the best ideas in criminal justice to improve our city.

Read more stories of justice on JustCity.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter @DefendShelbyCo

To learn more about the Arch City Defenders, click this link.  To read the white paper, click here. To find out how the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office has worked to combat similar issues in Memphis, read this JustCity.org blog post about the innovative Street Court program.

RSVP with Eventbrite! 

 

Nationally Renowned Artist Brings Exhibit Featuring Incarcerated Children to Memphis

When juveniles are involved in violent acts — our tendency is to react in fear — and call for swift, harsh punishment. But according to our juvenile justice laws, we are charged with working to rehabilitate youth.

Developments in brain science in the last 30 years reinforce the mission of rehabilitation — that the minds of young people are malleable and primed for continued development and change. Yet, with this mission and what we know, the U.S. still leads the world in incarcerating children.

This weekend, artist Richard Ross brings his photography to Memphis to show what juvenile justice looks like in this country — and his message is stark and unblinking.

Some may be less inclined to worry about inhumane detention conditions when young people are accused of unthinkable acts of violence, but a recent study found that 75% of young people held in detention in the U.S. are kept in these often poor and sometimes abusive conditions … for non-violent offenses.

Richard Ross

This Friday, September 19th, Richard Ross will give a lecture about his work at the Art Museum of the University of Memphis.  His work will be displayed in Memphis through November.  Also on exhibit will be the work of local artist, Penny Dodd, who has interviewed more than 800 Memphis teens — as they give us insight into their young, complicated lives.

From the "Juvenile-in-Justice" exhibit by Richard Ross
From the “Juvenile-in-Justice” exhibit by Richard Ross

Friday, September 19th

5-7pm Opening reception @ the University of Memphis College of Fine Arts

Performance during reception by the latest Music Production workshop of storybooth

and also by the Visible Community Music School

7pm  Richard Ross Lecture

Saturday, September 20th

10am – Noon  Morning Coffee with the artists

Exhibit will remain open until November 26th, 2014.

Read this article by Richard Ross on the popular political website, The Hill.