Just Mercy Book Summary - Just Mercy Book explained in key points
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Just Mercy summary

Bryan Stevenson

A Story of Justice and Redemption

4.2 (39 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson is a memoir and non-fiction book that sheds light on the systemic racism and flaws within the US criminal justice system. It shares Stevenson's experiences defending vulnerable clients on Death Row and his work to create a more just society.

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    Just Mercy
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    Since the 1980s, America’s criminal justice system has been marked by excessive punishment and mass incarceration.

    Criminal justice in America has long been a subject of public interest, prompting countless movies and TV series that detail the lives as well as work of lawyers, judges and even prisoners. But when you peel back the glossy Hollywood facade there’s a stark reality with nothing entertaining about it.

    Why’s that?

    Well, since the 1980s, the American criminal justice system has been one of excessive punishment. That’s because in the 1980s the country’s courts started doling out extreme sentences for even the most minor offenses. This was especially true if the person on trial had any kind of criminal record. The result was that even committing a petty crime could land you in jail for life.

    So, while in the early years of the decade, 41,000 people in America were incarcerated at a given time for drug-related offenses, today that number stands at 500,000. This fact is especially shocking since drugs use exploded in the 1980s. It’s clear that a fundamental change took place in both the sentences which were doled out and public opinion about what constituted fair punishment.

    For instance, in the 1980s the author met a woman serving a long prison sentence. Her crime?

    Writing five bad checks, each for less than $150, to buy Christmas presents for her kids.

    But extreme punishments bred another extreme: mass incarceration. It’s pretty simple: the more people you jail for small crimes, the more crowded prisons become. And this is why America is now facing a nationwide crisis of mass incarceration.

    For example, America’s prison population has risen from 300,000 in the early 1970s to 2.3 million people today. That’s not even counting the additional six million who are currently on probation or parole. Statistically speaking, that means that one out of every 15 people born in 2001 will be in prison sometime during his life.

    So where did all of these new criminals come from?

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    What is Just Mercy about?

    Just Mercy (2014) is a walk through the American criminal justice system of the 1980s. These blinks explain how a system that is supposed to safeguard the rights of the nation’s citizens became an unjust tool to mistreat and abuse the most vulnerable members of society through mass incarceration and excessive sentencing.

    Just Mercy Review

    Just Mercy (2014) by Bryan Stevenson is a powerful account of the author's work as a defense attorney for wrongly convicted individuals in the American criminal justice system. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • This book provides a deep examination of systemic injustice, shedding light on the racial and economic disparities within the legal system.
    • Stevenson shares compelling stories of individuals he has defended, showcasing the immense human cost of wrongful convictions and the urgency for reform.
    • By marrying personal narratives with legal analysis, the book offers a thought-provoking exploration of the complexities of justice and the importance of compassion.

    Best quote from Just Mercy

    Each of us is more than the worst thing weve ever done.

    —Bryan Stevenson
    example alt text

    Who should read Just Mercy?

    • Lawyers, judges and legal scholars
    • Anybody interested in the legal history of America
    • People wanting to understand the unjust nature of America’s criminal justice system

    About the Author

    Bryan Stevenson is a death row attorney who founded and serves as executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based nonprofit organization that represents and advocates for subjugated people. In addition to his work at EJI, Stevenson is a professor of law at the New York University Law School.

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    Just Mercy FAQs 

    What is the main message of Just Mercy?

    The main message of Just Mercy is that everyone deserves compassion, understanding, and equal access to justice.

    How long does it take to read Just Mercy?

    The reading time for Just Mercy varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Just Mercy a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Just Mercy is a powerful book that sheds light on issues of social justice and the flaws within the criminal justice system. It's definitely worth reading!

    Who is the author of Just Mercy?

    The author of Just Mercy is Bryan Stevenson.

    What to read after Just Mercy?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Just Mercy, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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