Selected Timelines of the Criminal Legal System
Based on the themes of this year's One Book selection, Just Mercy, the One Book Student Team has created "Selected Timelines of the Criminal Legal System," a set of timelines to educate the public on the following: Bryan Stevenson's career and the creation of the Equal Justice Initiative, the disproportionate and unjust incarceration of Black women in the United States, and the activists and major movements that have surrounded prison reform and abolition in the United States. While not exhaustive, these timelines provide a preview into some of the themes explored in Just Mercy and call us to continue to educate ourselves and engage with this work.
Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative
Bryan Stevenson is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a human rights organization in Montgomery, Alabama. Mr. Stevenson is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned. This timeline highlights some of the key dates, cases, and accomplishments of Stevenson's career.
The Incarceration of Black Women in the United States
In the United States, 29% of the 231,000 women and girls incarcerated are Black, despite only making up about 15% of the US's population of women. These rates of incarceration can be traced back to Virginia Slave Laws and colonial rape laws and are evidence of the United States' failures to protect Black women from violence. This timeline is an overview of the laws and policies that have led to the unjust and disproportionate rates of incarceration for Black women. (CW: mentions of sexual assault and domestic violence)
The Prison Reform and Abolition Movement in the United States
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement is occurring due to the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Oluwatoyin Salou, and countless other Black individuals recently. This movement has also led to a call for abolition of the prison industrial complex everywhere, including college campuses, high schools, and cities. This timeline covers the establishment of the first prison, legislation and unrest connected to the U.S. prison industrial complex, and highlights the activists and movements that call for the abolition of prisons.