Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families


Bryan Stevenson: We Need to Talk About an Injustice

In an engaging and personal TED talk -- with cameo appearances from his grandmother and Rosa Parks -- human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson shares some hard truths about America's justice system, starting with a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country's black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives. These issues, which are wrapped up in America's unexamined history, are rarely talked about with this level of candor, insight and persuasiveness.

Bryan Stevenson is a public-interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned. He's the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based group that has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent prisoners on death row, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults. One recent victory: A ban on life imprisonment without parole sentences imposed on children convicted of most crimes in the United States.



The following are among the enlightening quotes from Bryan Stevenson's insightful and moving presentation:

And mass incarceration, in my judgment,has fundamentally changed our world.In poor communities, in communities of color there is this despair,there is this hopelessness,that is being shaped by these outcomes.One out of three black men between the ages of 18 and 30 is in jail, in prison, on probation or parole.In urban communities across this country --Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington --50 to 60 percent of all young men of color are in jail or prison or on probation or parole.

Our system isn't just being shaped in these ways that seem to be distorting around race,they're also distorted by poverty.We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent.Wealth, not culpability,shapes outcomes.And yet, we seem to be very comfortable.The politics of fear and after shave made us believe that these are problems that are not our problems.We've been disconnected.


We need to find ways to embrace these challenges,these problems, the suffering.Because ultimately, our humanity depends on everyone's humanity.I've learned very simple things doing the work that I do.It's just taught me very simple things.I've come to understand and to believe that each of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done.I believe that for every person on the planet.I think if somebody tells a lie, they're not just a liar.I think if somebody takes something that doesn't belong to them,they're not just a thief.I think even if you kill someone, you're not just a killer.And because of that there's this basic human dignity that must be respected by law.

I also believe that in many parts of this country,and certainly in many parts of this globe,that the opposite of poverty is not wealth.I don't believe that.I actually think, in too many places,the opposite of poverty is justice.


Well we're trying to challenge injustice.We're trying to help people who have been wrongly convicted.We're trying to confront bias and discrimination in the administration of criminal justice.We're trying to end life without parole sentences for children.We're trying to do something about the death penalty.We're trying to reduce the prison population.We're trying to end mass incarceration.


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