“Capital punishment means them without the capital get the punishment.” This powerful quote from Just Mercy written by Bryan Stevenson addresses an ever present issue in this country. The United States justice system is fundamentally flawed in that it is biased against those who cannot afford lawyers, who are typically black or minority citizens. Someone might disagree with this statement by pointing out that everyone is entitled to equal representation in a court of law if they cannot afford their own lawyer. This is a constitutional right, and it is difficult for states to admit they are falling short of providing an equal and fair trial for everyone, regardless of socioeconomic standing, age, or race.

We can see a clear example of this injustice with the main case written about in Just Mercy. Walter McMillian, a black man, was on death row for six years because he was wrongly convicted of murdering a white woman. There was clear evidence that he was not involved in the crime, but the authorities and the judge vehemently ignored these facts.

This is not an isolated case of injustice in our nation’s history. Throughout our nation’s history, black citizens have been persecuted by the racist South through slavery, Jim Crow laws, the KKK, and laws preventing interracial marriage. In the book, Stevenson details how even in recent history, black and minority people have been once again oppressed by the justice system. Another fact that support Stevenson’s claims is that one in every three black male babies born in this century is expected to be incarcerated. African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population, which means they are being incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites. Racism in the criminal justice system is not only apparent in the high incarceration rates but also in how black civilians are treated by the police.

Something that has been in the media a lot recently is black men being shot by white police officers, and often it seems like they were killed for no justifiable reason. This connects to our book because it shows how black and minority individuals are persecuted by not only the police, but also the justice system. Justice in America seems to no longer truly be just, as the judicial system cripples minority citizens by denying them a fair trial or a lawyer that will fight for them. If the judicial system continues to operate in this unjust way, incarceration rates will continue to rise with minorities remaining the majority of those who are imprisoned, until at one point, it will become only minorities in the prisons. The freedom of the American dream will no longer be available for all citizens, and the very idea that America was founded on will die.

Editorial Board: Shelly Baldrige, Naomi Bratsch-Prince, Rachel Junck, Charlotte Lenkaitis, Emma VanRyswyk