I am reposting this 2015 review (one of the best books I read last year) because Just Mercy is one of 20 current for former NYT best sellers on sale today. Takeaway: Justice requires working systems. Part of working systems is adequate defense and reasonable sentencing.
No one that I know that has read this has rated it less than 5 stars.
Bryan Stevenson is the head of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery Alabama. Somewhat similar to the International Justice Mission that focuses on bringing justice and legal assistance to people around the world, EJI works to bring legal assistance to death row and other prisoners.
Stevenson deftly weaves the broader story of his life and work around one main story of an innocent death row inmate that was knowingly condemned to death and EJI’s work to prove his innocence and win him clemency.
Primarily this is a story of how our justice system is not equal. Poverty and race (and small town justice) often come together to produce not justice, but scapegoats.
This book came out before the Black Lives Matter movement started, but it is a good primer for the broader justice issues in the US.
Stevenson also does not spend much time on his own faith, but it is clear that his own Christian faith is a driving factor in giving him motivation and hope for his work. And I think that it is an interesting book to compare with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me.
Both are well aware of the injustice of the world. Both are African American men (Stevenson is a few years older). But Stevenson has hope for change and is working toward justice while Coates has little hope for change and is primarily chronicling injustice. Both are worth reading and both have perspectives that I think are widely held, but from my perspective it is Stevenson’s Christianity and his pro-active work that makes the difference in perspective.