Our character is measured by how we treat the accused, disfavored, the poor, and the condemned as well as the incarcerated. Bryan Stevenson is the executive director and founder of the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative. He is a lawyer and spends most of his time in prisons, jails and on death row. He works on the criminal justice system and he noticed several problems affecting the system, racial injustice being one of them. An African-American man, Walter McMillan spent six years on death sentence for a murder he did not commit. His case undoubtedly explains the presence of racism in the structural dissimilarities which denied the lawful rights to the African-American members.
Three white men with contradictory stories testified against him. There were six African-Americans who served as witnesses. Despite the fact that there were various ways to disapprove the false indications against Walter’s case, his lawyers were not capable of doing anything. The end result was that the all-white jury provided death sentence to him. Stevenson also explains that in the United States, one out of the three black males was expected to go to prison.
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Racial prejudice is also seen when a 28 year old man, Michael Lindsey. In 1989, he is taken to the Alabama electric chair. He was accused of killing a 63 year old white woman. Since he was black, there was no issue in his guilt. This factor made the justice system to make a harsh sentence on him. His jury made a recommendation that he is to be given a life sentence, a decision overrode by the judges.
The criminal justice system has failed the children because they are sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. The black children who came from a poor background were given life sentences in the adult prisons. He writes, “The incongruity of not allowing children to drink, smoke…because of their well-recognized lack of maturing and judgment while simultaneously treating some of the most at risk, neglected and impaired children exactly the same as full gown adults in the criminal justice system.” (Stevenson, 2014). Stevenson represents a 14 year old impaired child, Evan Miller when he beat a middle aged man with a baseball bat to death. Evan Miller was in company of two other youths who were given a parole-eligible sentence. This was after using drugs and drinking with him. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Justice is not practiced when a young child is sentenced in an adult prison.
Poverty is another problem Stevenson saw on the justice system. He states that, “…equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful…the true measure of our character is how we treat the poor…” (Stevenson, 2014) this statement clearly indicates that the justice system will treat you better if you are rich and guilty than if you are poor and innocent. There is an inadequate defense of the poor by the attorneys. Evidences against the powerless and unpopular defendants are falsify by the prosecutors and the police.
Stevenson reveals the laziness present in the criminal justice system. The court passes illegal proceedings and fails to consider the rights of the innocent people. The illegal proceedings are what spearheaded the unlawful arrest and death row sentence of McMillan.
Jimmy Dill was diagnosed with a mental disability which made him to practice drug addiction. He is accused of shooting a man which led to his arrest. He was charged with a murder case and then out in a death row after the man passed on a few months later. The court denied Stevenson’s new evidences. He boy was then strapped in a chair and then his execution followed suit. This shows how the criminal justice system was broken.
Stevenson thinks that the Americans need to get close to the problems at hand as presented by the criminal justice system. He believes on the need of Americans to resurrect the narrative about racial differences because of the consequent problems of prejudice continue in our daily lives. He writes, “We are all carrying illness, this disruption that has created a narrative of racial indifference and because of that, we continue to suffer.”
Stevenson states that in order for justice to be accomplished, there should be a long term and a short term change in the Nation’s and in the Society’s narratives. It is important to change the society’s narratives so that in case the issue of racial segregation comes up, the people will not turn towards the exits. Stevenson musters hope to the people for progress to take place. He states that, “”Hope is what gets you to stand when other people are telling you to sit down.”” (Stevenson, 2014). He fights against hopelessness which is considered as the enemy of the justice. He encourages people to get closer to places where cases of poverty, neglect and abuse is rampant. Stevenson needs to involve other leaders and use civil rights movements to improve and correct the illness present in the criminal justice system.
In conclusion, Bryan Stevenson not only defends the wrongly accused but also the minors facing death sentence, the mentally ill and those who lacked resources to support themselves in the trials. He clearly puts us in his situation, in the accused situation and also in the situations of many people failed by the judicial system. I am personally surprised by the ill services provided by our justice system. Stevenson’s story provides a proof that the poor, blacks and the disabled had no chance in the criminal justice system.
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