2018 - Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy book cover

Below is an excerpt from the letter written by the students in the Honors Read Tutorial who selected the 2018 Honors Read.

Just Mercy is about Stevenson’s experience as an attorney and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), fighting for the rights of condemned persons on death row. In Just Mercy, Stevenson shares the stories of many EJI clients who have been profoundly impacted by unjust carceral penalties. Through his storytelling, we are invited to learn about these lives and are also inspired to reevaluate how we understand crime, punishment, and the criminal justice system. 

Our criteria for the Honors Read included choosing a book that is provocative, relevant to this moment in time, and discusses what it means to be human. In the age of the Movement for Black Lives, and the modern civil rights era, we grapple with understanding the function of race in our society. To question what it means to be human is impossible without considering injustice, which is why we feel this book is so pertinent to the Honors civilizations sequence.

One of the central objectives of the Honors College is exploration of ideas and themes which are not traditionally touched upon in everyday life. Just Mercy is a valuable exploration of systemic racism which is not traditionally discussed, especially within the context of incarcerated citizens.

We hope this text will encourage you to ask questions such as: What is the power of the State and how should it be used? As the United States is founded on the principle of governance by the people, where do we, as citizens, draw our nation’s ethical boundaries? To address this issue, we should ensure that we are informed as to the bias and authoritarianism which all-to-often seems to be a natural feature of human institutions. Just Mercy may be, for many, the first step taken along this dialectical path, the beginning of a line of inquiry regarding humankind’s ultimate sense of meaning, of the nature of justice itself.