Social Justice In Bryan Stevenson's In Just Mercy

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In Bryan Stevenson’s memoir, he explains how “the power of mercy…belongs to the undeserving. It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent – strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering” (294). However, Stevenson isn’t just talking about mercy. Mercy plays a part with other prominent aspects of the book, most relating to problems in the justice system. These faults are what led Walter McMillian being put on death row for a crime he did not commit, which is the main storyline of the memoir. In Just Mercy, Stevenson talks about how his personal experiences with criminal justice, social justice, race, and mercy all connect to make a web of flaws in the legal system.
One of the main factors that contribute to the issues in the legal system is the absence of criminal justice. Criminal justice exists when a person who committed a crime is arrested and sentenced for an appropriate amount of time; an innocent person does not go to jail for a crime they did not commit. In order for criminal justice to truly happen, social justice needs to occur simultaneously. People need to be treated equally, disregarding qualities such as race, gender, sexuality, and wealth, just to name a few. The memoir
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Race was used as a bias to convict Walter McMillian, resulting with an absence of social justice. This wrongdoing was due to “the race of the victim [being] the greatest predictor of who gets the death penalty in the United States” (142). If social justice was executed correctly, then race wouldn’t have been a factor in cases like Walter’s; instead, social justice should have been carried out through mercy. Stevenson mentions, “equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned”

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