Changes in the system

Bryan Stevenson spoke about his experiences with racial injustice at the Unity Day keynote on Oct. 14.
Bryan Stevenson spoke about his experiences with racial injustice at the Unity Day keynote on Oct. 14.

Before Bryan Stevenson sat down with Rider News reporter Claire Dalzon and reflected on the harsh realities that have shaped his career and what he hopes will change in America’s justice system. 

Q: Do you find it hard to maintain your faith in the justice system?

Frequently, I know that truth will not prevail. Justice will not prevail if the system just functions the way it ordinarily functions. So you sometimes have to be willing to push it and shake it and make it do things that it’s not really designed to do or is comfortable doing. My hope is really rooted in our ability to shake it in that way, push it in that way.

Q: Megan’s Law makes convicted sex offenders not only notify law enforcement but make the communities they live in aware of their presence in the neighborhood. This law has been criticized because of how it is easy to get on the list but nearly impossible to get off, regardless of the crime. Your thoughts?

I think the law is unnecessary. I don’t think it has helped anyone minimize or protect themselves from victimization. Most child sex crimes take place within families. There’s a very small percentage that take place on stranger-to-stranger crimes. I think the benefits are small and the costs are great.

Q: How can college students such as ourselves contribute to the work you do?

Well, I think there is a growing need for college students to become intimately engaged in providing services and assistance to people who are incarcerated. There are a number of colleges that are building and supporting programs that go behind bars to provide education because many prisons don’t provide basic GED instruction. College kids can do that.

Q: We already know how your work has affected your professional life. How has it affected your personal life?

I think it enriches my personal life. I feel really fortunate to have a life where I can spend my waking hours engaged in things I’m passionate about. It really gives you purpose. So to me, I don’t think I sacrificed anything. It’s been a great privilege to do what I do.

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