A blood stirring book about America’s broken criminal justice system- Bryan Stevenson’s JUST MERCY is one that will truly embolden your soul.
Ironically, the “Land of the Free” has become the nation with the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world and it’s not because there’s been an increase in violent crime. In the 70’s we waged a very expensive and notoriously inefficient war on drugs that has still not yet ended. We’ve put millions of people in jails and prisons for drug dependency. We decided to deal with drug dependency as a crime issue rather than a health issue. We went from 300,000 people incarcerated in 1972 to 2.3 million people today. Most people we put in jail are not a threat to public safety.
We spend 51 billion a year on this ineffective initiative that could otherwise be spent on public safety, drug education, rehabilitation programs and addiction research. The desire for monetary gain through prison privatization has led to the vast growth of the prison industry and further contributed to the number of incarcerated individuals.We’ve never had as many innocent people in jails and prisons than we do right now. “We have a system of justice that treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent. Wealth not culpability shapes outcome.” If you’ve ever been in jail you know that the conditions and treatment of the inmates is tantamount to factory farm animals: cruel and inhumane. This issue interests me greatly having been through the system myself-- witness to the unjust tyranny that goes on within jail walls and the arbitrary abuse of inmates. The year I was in Lynwood county jail (2013) 18 different sheriffs were arrested for unjust inmate abuse (just two months after my stint). This was no surprise. Seeing it with my own eyes and also being victim to it is surreal and unimaginably terrifying. Naturally, as a result of that experience I have become impassioned and inflamed by the wreckage and disruption caused by our extremely flawed system. I feel obligated to speak out about it. It’s time for change.
An even greater atrocity is capital punishment. We’ve had 154 people get sentenced to DEATH that were later exonerated (proved INNOCENT)! That means that 1 out of every 9 convictions has ultimately resulted in exoneration. It is a SHOCKING rate of ERROR and should be banned for good. America has hopelessly entangled two very different concepts: justice and vengeance. We spend more money on lengthy and repeated automatic appeals for death row inmates than would be spent on housing them in the prison system for the rest of their lives. More importantly, public safety is not enhanced by this wasteful spending. It is unquestionably a LOSE LOSE LOSE.
“I believe you measure the character of a nation and the health of your soul not by how you treat the rich, the famous and the privileged but by how you treat the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned.” - Bryan Stevenson