Erstellt am: 16. 1. 2016 - 11:58 Uhr
"There's a whole community of people, who are literally dying for legal assitance"
Hear Bryan Stevenson in a Reality Check Special, (broadcast Saturday at 12 noon) by clicking here:
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When Jon Stewart was anchoring the Daily Show, most of his guests impressed me. He and his team normally invited interesting poeple with thought-provoking subject matter to discuss. One guest who sticks in my mind, was Bryan Stevenson.
He came on the show and reminded America and the world that there was a worrying situation going on in the US justice and prison system.
The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other nation in the world. Politicians like to put across the message that they are tough on crime. But the system wasn't designed to hold so many people in a safe environment. Take the state of Alabama; the state's prisons were built to hold 14,000 prisoners. Today, they hold 28,000.
Equal Justice Initiative
Whatever you think about how justice systems are run around the world, Bryan Stevenson is someone worth listening to. He founded the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama. It's a NGO that provides legal assistance to defendants and prisoners who have been denied fair and just treatment in the legal system.
The gold standard?
Now you might say that when it comes to fairness amd justice, surely America is the gold standard. But if you start to read through some of the cases that Bryan and his team have taken on, you may start to wonder
The EJI looks at cases of condemned prisoners, those on death row, juvenile offenders, people wrongly convicted or charged with violent crimes, poor people denied effective representation, and others whose trials are marked by racial bias or prosecutorial misconduct.
Take the case of Anthony Ray Hinton. He spent nearly 30 years on Alabama's death row for a crime he did not commit. He was exonerated and released in April 2015. Bryan Stevenson represented Mr. Hinton for 16 years
Sadly, it's still all too true that money, connections and a priviliged background can help you if you are being judged in a courtroom. If however you come from a community that has been marginalized by poverty and discouraged by unequal treatment, the cards seem stacked against you.
The numbers and cases are staggering
Here's something else that's thought-provoking from the EJI's Website:
3095 people in the United States are currently are under a death sentence. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, 1369 men, women, children, and mentally ill people have been shot, hanged, asphyxiated, lethally injected, and electrocuted by individual States and the US federal government. For every ten people executed in this country, one innocent person on death row has been identified and exonerated.
Monday 18th January
A timely reminder, ahead of Martin Luther King Day on Monday, that a lot more needs to be done; Dr King's words are as true today, as they were back then:
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character".
As far as the judicial situation in America of 2016 is concerned, if you also believe in equal justice, it's imperative that Bryan Stevenson and his team at the EJI are also out there, going through cases and challenging the system to do better.
Hear Bryan Stevenson in a Reality Check Special, Saturday at 12 noon and afterwards in our FM4 Player.