Crime and Punishment in the United States criminal justice system
Our Keynote speaker, Bryan Stevenson, recently was quoted in the NY Times regarding his representation of Joe Sullivan, a young man sentenced to life in prison without parole for a crime he commited when he was 13 years old. Bryan Stevenson asked the court to say
that the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment
forbids such sentences for youths under the age of 14 convicted of any
crime, including murder.
“To say to any child of 13 that you
are only fit to die in prison is cruel,” said Bryan Stevenson, Mr.
Sullivan’s lawyer. “It can’t be reconciled with what we know about the
nature of children.”
Bryan Stevenson is an outspoken advocate for fairness and humanity in the criminal justice system. As he said in a recent speech,
"I have been trying to say things about poverty and race and injustice
in America. It's not always an easy thing to talk about. There's a lot
of fear in our society ... Within the
work I do, I see it manifesting itself in some very tragic ways. Today,
in the United States, we've had this phenomenon emerge that has
fundamentally changed our society. It's called mass incarceration. In
1972, there were 300,000 people in jails and prisons. Today there are
2.3 million. There are 6 million people on probation and parole in this
country, and the consequence of that is devastating. The United States
incarcerates more people per capita than any other country in the
world. For poorer communities and for communities of color, the
consequences have been absolutely horrific. One out of three black men
between the ages of 18 and 30 is in jail, in prison, on probation, or
on parole. In some states, we actually take away the right to vote,
permanently, for people with criminal convictions. In my state of
Alabama, 31 percent of the black male population has permanently lost
the right to vote. We now have economic incentives because we built
these prisons to keep 2.3 million people in jail and prisons, and so
there are a lot of folks who actually don't want crime to decrease.
They don't want there to be fewer people in jails and prisons. And this
creates this world where there are these real human problems."
To learn more about making the law work better for all people, come to Reblaw 2010!