Just Mercy - Bryan Stevenson

So, work has an unbiasing book club, where you read books about how it sucks to be in a minority, to help us overcome our unconscious biases. It's a great idea. Sadly, being an American company, the selection does tend to focus on the issues in America. On the other hand, the issues there are complex and worth learning about.

This book is largely about death row prisoners in the US South, although it also covers some juveniles sentenced to life without parole and the like. Mr. Stevenson is a lawyer who has spent literally decades trying to get justice for these people.

Justice in the South is harsh, racist and uncaring. A black man can be rushed through the courts to death row while being clearly innocent. The degree to which the state actors are either racist or plain just don't care about justice is shocking. Others in the book have committed horrible crimes, but the sentences don't take into account how badly society has let them down.

The penal system in the US is at a scale almost unheard of anywhere else - almost as if a capitalist prison system will expand to meet its needs rather than be an appropriate part of the justice system. *cough* Elected judicial posts who have to be tough on crime to get in lead to inhuman punishment. It's a mess.

Throw into this the racist history of the country - slavery, the Klan, segregation and the rest, and it's not hard to guess that poor, black people are going to have a bad time, and they do.

Reading this book as Trump gets elected is a sobering thought. Uncaring, racist, selfish, narcisstic and power-seeking leaders are what's made the South such an unpleasant place for the marginalised. This is not something you want to see on a national scale.

Posted 2016-11-12.