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Month: May 2015

Equal Justice Initiative: Challenging Abusive Punishments of Juveniles

As part of this work, the EJI seeks to end the practice of sentencing children under the age of 14 as adults, to end the placement of anyone under the age of 18 in adult prisons, and to end life imprisonment without parole and other excessive sentences given to children. In an effort to spread awareness of children in prisons across the country, EJI, put together a publication called All Children are Children: Challenging Abusive Punishments of Juveniles.The United States is the only country in the world to sentence children to die in prison. Currently about 10,000 Americans under the age of 18 are in adult prisons. As of 2014, 14 states had no minimum age for adult prosecution. The Equal Justice Initiative is working to provide legal assistance to juveniles sentenced to die in prison, to end juveniles being placed in adult prisons where there are at a higher risk of assault and sexual violence, and to challenge the prosecution of young children as adults.

To read All Children are Children: Challenging Abusive Punishments of Juveniles click here.

Spreading Bryan Stevenson’s Message through a TED Talk

In March of 2012 Bryan Stevenson gave a TED Talk about his work to reform the criminal justice system. In April of this year Stevenson was interviewed about his TED Talk experience by Charlie Rose for 60 Minutes. In the interview Stevenson admits that when he was first asked to do a TED Talk he didn’t know what it was. Now though, he is very grateful for the experience and exposure. The TED Talk helped the Equal Justice Initiative raise one million dollars and even today, three years after the Talk, the online video helps create awareness of the nonprofit organization and its mission.

Chris Anderson, the man who runs TED, is the one who wanted Stevenson to do a TED Talk. He said that the purpose of TED is to help people spread ideas. He describes what TED does by explaining that:

There are numerous brilliant people out there and they’ve come up with something really important. And so part of the way we see our role is to help them make their knowledge accessible.

Anderson and his colleagues at TED saw Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative’s ideas as worth spreading. Watch and share the TED Talk here. Read or watch Bryan Stevenson and Chris Anderson’s interview with Charlie Rose here.

What Bryan Stevenson Learned from Ralph Ellison

This spring during the Los Angeles Festival of Books, the Los Angeles Times featured writers discussing their literary idols. Bryan Stevenson was one of those writers. He wrote about Ralph Ellison an how the book Invisible Man changed how he saw things.

Ellison taught me that sometimes a book can disrupt the relationship you have to the world around you and force you to demand more, seek more, expect more, experience more that is essential and important to what truly matters.

After reading Invisible Man, Stevenson noticed a change in how he viewed racially segregated society and made him more aware of the roles he maintained in that society. He used the wisdom he learned from the narrative in Invisible Man in writing his own book, Just Mercy.

After Invisible Man, I knew it existed; this place where words, narrative and language can get you close to truth and the powers that truth can activate.

Have any books impacted you the way Invisible Man impacted Bryan Stevenson? Who is your literary idol?

To read Stevenson’s article about Ellison click here.

To see if Just Mercy is available for check out at UW Madison Libraries click here.

To see if Invisible Man is available for check out at UW Madison Libraries click here.

Bryan Stevenson’s Interview with Truthout


Photo of Bryan Stevenson by Linda Nylind Guardian

Bryan Stevenson was recently interviewed by Truthout. In the interview he was asked to elaborate on some of the issues he discusses in his book, Just Mercy. In particular he expands on what the book’s title means, areas of the Unites States’ criminal justice system that he is advocating to improve, and the challenges ahead for helping those most vulnerable in our current system.

Stevenson works primarily on issues in the criminal justice system related to race and poverty, children in prison, mass incarceration, and the death penalty. In this interview he explains why his work is so important an why he started the Equal Justice Initiative as a young lawyer. He sums up the purpose of his work by saying:

It is about how easily we condemn people in this country and the injustice we create when we allow fear, anger, and distance to shape the way we treat the most vulnerable among us.

With his book, Just Mercy, Stevenson hopes to bring these issues to the attention of more people. For example in the United States 68 million people out of 320 million people have criminal records. That equates to one out of every four to five people in our country. He sees that number as too high and as a result is devoted to working for social justice.

To read the Truthout interview click here.