Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson [Book Summary – Review]

Have you ever learned a thing about the courts’ system in the US? Did you get the chance to have a look at any court’s jail? what do you think of meeting a person who is well-aware of all the norms and the way it works in this system; would lawyers do? for they have the expertise with the inner circle of the jail as a system and place by uncovering cases around the states’ courts?

In this book, the writer shows the mechanism of courts and how it functioned during the eighties, the way in which it elevated so far, precisely the impact of various gregarious classes like ladies, kids, and psychics, being involved in court cases through being abused or any other kind of “special treatment”.

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Chapter 1 – The courts’ system in the US has been known for exercising extreme condemnations and chaotic imprisonment since 1980.

The mechanism of the felonious courts in the US has always been one of the topics that people are curious about, which appears through unlimited films and TV shows about crimes and how it’s dealt with by the court and the elements of this system; lawyer, criminal or suspects, and head of the court. yet, after removing the fantasy face of Hollywood you see the ugly truth about it. 

What is the reason behind that?

It goes back to the 1980s when the felonious courts’ mechanism has been an extreme condemnation. The reason is at that time the courts in all the states began to authorize drastic judgments for every case no matter its degree. In precise, it happened for accused people who didn’t have a clean profile in the felonious system. eventually, if your guilt was not that big, you would still be imprisoned for the rest of your life.

This implied a number during the eighties; 41,000 were found guilty of Cocaine and Heroin cases in the US and sent to prison to spend their sentenced periods. now, this number reached 50,000. it’s surprising information to hear especially that using such drugs was announced illegal since then. obviously, a major change happened because of the condemnations and people’s reaction to the base for a just sentence.

For example, the writer recalls meeting a lady during that decade who was sent to jail for long. but for doing what?

For signing five checks illegally with no more than $150 for each because she wasn’t able to afford to buy gifts for her children.

Yet, such excessive sentences brought another excessive: chaotic imprisonment. The fact is easy: each time the number of prisoners of light guilts increases, the jails become explosively full. Which led the US to encounter a global catastrophe of chaotic imprisonment.

For instance, the number of prisoners in the US has increased from 300,000 at the beginning of the seventies to 2.3 million prisoners this year. These statistics don’t include the extra six million sentenced people who are now under conditional release. according to numbers, out of 15 individuals who were born in 2001, one will be condemned with guilt and sent to jail one day.

The question now is what creates criminals in such a number?

Chapter 2 – Black Americans have been disproportionately received improperly by the States’ felonious court system.

Chaotic imprisonment and extreme condemnation form a legal horrifying living, yet, what brings more horror is who fall to crime and suffer the court’s system. they are the black-skin citizens of the US, in precise, who has been sent to suffer from this faulty felonious court system.


Racial prejudice, by going so far in poisoning the community in the US, reveals that black-skin citizens will always be under the spot for accusations. This illustrates the likeliness of African Americans being the first to be accused of guilt instead of white Americans. therefore, the surprising ratio of individuals who go to jail for a crime; one to fifteen, is not as terrifying as the ratio among the black-skin citizens alone; one to three.

And our writer here, who is one of the black-skin citizens, remembers an incident that occurred between him and the Atlanta cops. Here are the details.

He came home in the evening in his car and when he arrived, instead of turning it off after he parked in his yard, he remained there for minutes enjoying a song airing on the radio for a band he loves very much. it happened so quickly that a SWAT vehicle was before him and realized that his gaze is fixed on a cop’s weapon. Without a warrant, the cop searched the writer’s car and said that he was very lucky for not being arrested.

That incident of the writer, based on a normal way that black-skin people were living, is one of many different methods the felonious courts’ system used to abuse them: for the poor black-skin citizens were most of the time sent for trials unjustly. therefore, the writer should’ve been afraid of the cop who threatened him as he didn’t commit any guilt. and this goes for many others who fall to bigger issues.

Yet, what reasons do the felonious courts have to condemn the black-skin citizens unjustly for guilts? 

One reason is the efforts of the felonious courts in hiding any evidence that may help the black-skin citizens’ guiltlessness.

For example, the body of the Supreme Court in the late nineteenth century was appointing the members of the jury according to their skin color, therefore, all of them have to be of the white Americans for one complete century. This was due to the norms in courts back then which found African Americans illegitimate for this position in court jury. consequently, black-skin citizens who encounter trials in the court would stand before white-skin jurors in every state.

Chapter 3 – The corrupted felonious court system in the US has had severe reflections for kids.

Although all the previous narratives are not the worst, the following ones hold the most miserable stories from inside the jails in the US: they were full of kids younger than 14 years old. though kids are known for not realizing the size of troubles in which they got themselves, they received its serious consequences just like grownup people in the late twentieth century.

During that century, the State of Alabama broke the worldly records for having adolescents condemned with execution. nowadays is not that different, as the claimants in Florida have the upper hand in saying where a kid shall have a trial; in an adolescents court or adults one, without any specific regulations for the legal age.

If a kid is sent to an adult court, then a harsh penalty will be the result, which means something a guilty kid can’t bear. while juvenile reformation institutions are the right place for such kids below the age of 14, they are sent to jail like grownup individuals to receive violent treatment and sexual abuse. actually, the possibility for adolescent prisoners to receive sexual abuse inside the jail is very high which they can only escape by getting themselves sent to isolated cells.

One of the writer’s clients was condemned to spend the rest of his life in prison for committing a heist and undertaken murder at the age of 13. since then, he was sent to solitary confinement for 18 years.

Furthermore, like the sentences for life in jail are less terrifying for kids, courts were condemning them for execution as well. Actually, only by the end of the 1980s when the Supreme Court removed the execution sentence from the system for kids under 15, then 16 years later, it was canceled for all kids.  

Chapter 4 – Females were among the main victims of the corrupted felonious courts’ systems too.

Now it’s obvious that the felonious courts’ system in the US, according to the chaotic imprisonment and unjust penalties, gets the advantage of the vulnerable and powerless subjects. yet, black-skin men and kids are not alone in this. actually, imprisoning female adults has been in a fast increase as well.

This act of sending black-skin ladies to jail received a huge rate of 646 percent between the years 1980 and 2010. in addition to 50 percent more to the rate of male prisoners.

Yet, such numbers don’t reveal cases of criminal females in American society. Actually, more than half of 200,000 female prisoners are guilty of dealing with drugs or stealing cases.

Moreover, the authorities force very intense regulations upon the women prisoners to remain inside. therefore, knowing that being sentenced for imprisonment is a miserable lifetime, the way in which women live that life inside jail is very awful. they would be put in narrow spaces and getting mistreated by the male jailers.

For example, the number of female prisoners in Tutwiler Prison in Alabama now is double the number of them at the time of the prison’s establishment in the mid of the last century. Moreover, when the 1990s came, men jailers were still walking freely into the bathrooms when women prisoners were having showers. thus, so many women inside got raped and abused by the jailers who were supposed to protect those females.

As a result of sexual abuse, a few women carried babies in their wombs, and no one would help them for the fact that if a jailer got caught for what he’s done more than once, the heaviest penalty he would receive is most possibly getting released from duty for a period.

Yet, plus the horrible consequences for rape and physical abuse, women inside the jail were mistreated in methods that touch their humanity. For instance, before 2008, in several jails, pregnant women prisoners were handcuffed at the time they’re delivering their babies.

Chapter 5 – Psychic people in the US were victims of chaotic imprisonment.

One more part of the American society which is treated unfairly by the felonious courts’ system is the psychic individuals, and the main cause for their sentences to jail was shutting down many psychiatric centers. This is due to the institutionalizing of the psychics regularly in the US, in specialized centers or jails, it doesn’t matter.

By the end of the 1800s, the psychic individuals who were found guilty were in big numbers for imprisonment as their punishment for their crimes, but considering their mental status in prison, things got uglier to them and they were returned to the psychiatric centers. 

On the other side, another huge part of this group was under custody at the psychiatric centers for non-felonious cases, such as, for instance, homosexuality. Ultimately, the last thirty years in the last century witnessed a tremendous number of psychiatric centers were sealed for the prison-like status it had as for not guilty people. 

Yet, it’s a misfortune for the psychics who were inhibiting those centers for their conditions, so after shutting down the centers, the psychics were thrown in the streets, committed crimes and were sent to jail. Therefore, 50 percent of the imprisoned population now in the US are psychics, furthermore, the number of psychics in jails is 300 percent more than them in the psychiatric centers. 

But shutting down those psychiatric centers wasn’t alone what triggered the imprisonment of the psychics. The other reason was the fact that the felonious court system didn’t tackle their issues properly during the 1980s.

At that decade, tribunals underestimated the issue that psychics who were accused got harmful sentences. Consequently, tribunals condemned them in a similar manner to those criminals with no mental conditions, and in 2002, the Supreme Court prohibited the execution sentence for the psychics.

Moreover, once psychics are in jail, the care they ought to receive as ill people is not there anymore. For example, the prisoners of Louisiana’s Angola Prison were handcuffed to the dungeon’s bars when a cop wants to visit them in it.

If it occurs that a psychic is having an epileptic convulsion, in which a medical interference is required, such status will prevent the guards to handcuff him to the bars and this leaves them to restrain him using extinguisher spray.

Obviously, acts like chaotic imprisonment and cruel penalties have paid their share, yet, to what extent such acts would be terrifying?

Chapter 6 – The results of chaotic imprisonment extend further than just the prisoners to the whole community outside of it.

Considering the status of the chaotic imprisonment in the US, maybe you accidentally point to any suspect who was condemned to 15 years in prison. Yet, you first ought to think of the results that imprisonment leaves upon that prisoner.

This is due to the status of just being imprisoned would be a disturbing living condition that affects people forever. therefore, when someone sees a sentence of 10 years in prison as a fair judgment for certain guilts, this sentence would mostly be destructive to the sentenced individual. 

Joe Sullivan is one example here. He was sent to jail for the rest of his life without conditional release for committing a felony other not related to murder at the age of 12. While within, Joe got mistreated sexually which made him endeavor to take his own life more than once. In the end, his health status worsened to multiple sclerosis leaving him paralyzed in a wheelchair.

Actually, there are a lot of prisoners who struggle with cruel mistreatment that refresh their minds wondering about the reason behind their criminal behaviors. 

Yet, chaotic imprisonment doesn’t affect the ones who are struggling within, it also possesses a disastrous reflection upon the prisoners’ house and people. It’s the case that getting suspected and condemned for a felony leaves impacts on everybody around the guilty.

For example, Walter McMillian was condemned for execution after he was found guilty for a homicide, not of his doing. As his lawyer, our writer went to Monroe County to visit Walter’s family, and he found himself in the hospitality of the entire house of 30 people who got their share of Walter’s guilt.

It doesn’t stop there, since cruel penalties reflect heavily upon societies, precisely if the sentenced person comes from a small solidated block, where most black-skin citizens live around the US countrysides. When the writer was working on Walter’s case, he received a lot of calls and meetings with individuals to show support and solidarity. Coming from everywhere in Walter’s block; starting from his previous work partners to his best bodies. In one word, the whole community participated in Walter’s defense. 

Well, maybe you are extremely surprised now by the savagery of the felonious courts’ system during the 1980s, yet, if you continue the book, you will find a bright side of it for the improvements that took place.

Chapter 7 – The beginning of the second Millenium has shown reforms in the felonious courts’ system in the US.

It might feel as if desperation has covered the US and its corrupted felonious courts’ system, yet in fact, a few serious improvements have taken place. Actually, at the beginning of this second Millenium, the incidents of intense penalties such as the execution one and the prison for life are on their way to be demolished. 

From the end of the 1990s and through 2010, death sentences carried out per year were reduced to half its number. Moreover, execution as a sentence was canceled permanently in some states in the US such as New York and Maryland. 

Yet, there still many reforms to come. in 2010, the Supreme Court prohibited detention with no possibility for conditional release for prisoners who are under age and whose crimes don’t involve murder. Two years later, the Court canceled prison for life as a penalty for those under age without conditional release – those who committed homicide are included. Thus, the likeliness for an adolescent to be punished with prison for life has been successfully abolished.

What is the result?

Decreasing the cruel penalties led as well to a decrease in the number of prison condemnations. Actually, 2012 witnessed a decrease in the number of individuals imprisoned in the US as an extraordinary thing in four decades!

Yet, the current status remains dreary and the courts’ system will be required to have much clemency. This is due to, regardless of the decrease in cruel penalties, the explicit unfairness that still occupies the felonious courts’ system against specific classes in society.

A lot of individuals can’t afford to hire a lawyer when it’s needed to have a just trial. Thus, such a fellow fails to survive the cruelty of a heavily corrupted system. No matter what others would say, the issue that black-skin citizens, kids, women, and the psychics are randomly imprisoned is not evidence for them having guilted more than others who can get away with theirs. But it indicates the tendency of the courts’ system to show such population as criminals until they get the chance to defend themselves legally.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson Book Review

Two detestable acts distorted the felonious courts’ system: the chaotic imprisonment and the cruel penalties. Throughout the previous decades, African-Americans formed the most powerless population in the community through history, and women raising children without their fathers have encountered horrible intense penalties because they were found guilty with light cases or for being framed for guilt, not of their doing.

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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/106467014-sava-ate

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