The US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. The prison population has increased from 300,000 in the early 1970s to more than two million now. One in every 15 people is expected to go to prison. For black men, the most incarcerated group in America, this figure rises to one out of every three.
Bryan Stevenson grew up a member of a poor black community in the racially segregated South. He was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of the US’s criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young black man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, startling racial inequality, and legal brinksmanship — and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.
Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted lawyer’s coming of age, a moving portrait of the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of justice.
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Mr. Santana spent five years in prison for a crime he did not commit. One of the "Central Park Five," he and four other teenagers were accused and convicted of brutally attacking and sexually assaulting a female jogger in New York's Central Park on April 19, 1989. The group was coerced into confessing and were all tried and convicted, though no DNA evidence linked them to the crimes. Mr. Santana was only 14 years old at the time. He was tried as a juvenile and sentenced to 5-10 years in prison and was released in 1995. Seven years after his release, in 2002, a convicted murderer and rapist unrelated to the Central Park Five confessed that he alone was responsible for the crimes. Following this confession, DNA evidence was tested that tied Matias Reyes to the attack, and later that year, the Central Park Five were exonerated.
FYS Credit Available.
Join us for an Ignite session -- 5 minute presentations presented with automatically advancing slides -- that shows the many sides of the justice system. Presenters include researchers, practitioners, and formerly incarcerated individuals who will share their experience and knowledge about crime, punishment, and re-entry.
FYS Credit Available.
Children with imprisoned siblings, parents, or family members often suffer silently and face a number of challenging circumstances, including trauma. This panel will explore the immediate and long-term effects of parental incarceration on children. Participants will discuss ways to support children in the aftermath of traumatic events, maintain a trauma-responsive school culture and provide needed services to at-risk children.
Sarah Koenig hosts Serial, a podcast phenomenon that tells one story week by week. Season One tells the story of Adnan Sayed, convicted as a teenager of killing his high school girlfriend Hae Min Lee. Sayed, was sentenced to life in prison, but he claims he is innocent. Sarah revisited the criminal justice system in Season Three, recorded in Cleveland, OH. It follows the journey of the justice system for many people and how it does or does not work in their favor. The podcast has won numerous broadcasting awards including the first Peabody ever awarded to a podcast. Prior to Serial, Sarah was a producer on the podcast This American Life.
Raymond Santana will speak at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, September 24 in the SEC Kulkarni Theater.
Sarah Koenig will speak on Thursday, January 23 at 6:00 pm in the SEC Kulkarni Theater.
Please be advised that this year's title selection and the associated themes deal with imprisonment, wrongful convictions, murder, sexual assault, and other challenging topics. Programming may not be suitable for all audiences.
If you would like to speak with a counselor after any programming or after reading the book and associated materials, please utilize the resources below.
Information for each chapter includes links to reports and news articles referenced by Just Mercy author Bryan Stevenson within the text of each chapter, and provided in each chapter's notes section at the end of the book. Additionally, songs, pictures, news items, and other media are included for context when available and appropriate. For more information about the notes, be sure to check the Notes section of the book.
World Almanac and Encyclopedia (1901), Confederate Memorial Day Observations, page 29.
Note: The references for this chapter come from many small newspapers in Alabama. These publications are not available in the Penn State University Libraries Collection, nor on the open web.
Note: The references in this chapter frequently mention the case State v. Colbey, which is not available in our holdings. Additionally there are references to local newspapers unavailable in our holdings.
There are no notes for this chapter.
These databases, organizations, and other resources provide additional information about the topics addressed in the book. In many cases, these sources are cited by the author throughout the book, or were used to locate the sources cited.
Civil Rights and Criminal Justice Reform
These resources provide statistics and numerical data cited throughout the book about the criminal justice system.
If you would like to learn or explore more about the criminal justice system, we recommend these books.
Adapted from Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: Companion Books for Children and Teens from the Children's Book Cooperative
These podcasts explore the topics discussed throughout Just Mercy.
Reply All: The Crime Machine, Parts I&II
These two episodes discuss the creation and deployment of the police crime tracking software Compstat, developed by detective Jack Maple, an NYPD officer. Though the software started with noble intentions, over time, it has been used as a productivity tool that some officers say has led to profiling and other unethical police behaviors. Jack Maple and his effect on policing are mentioned in the Central Park Five documentary.
These productions explore similar themes to Just Mercy and our speaker, Raymond Santana.