“One of every nine people sent to death row is found to be innocent and exonerated. Would you fly an airline that had that high an error rate?” asks Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, in a recent TED talk that garnered a standing ovation.
Stevenson breaks down the inhumanity of our criminal justice system by blending personal stories from his childhood, like how his grandmother tricked him into promising her three things, with hard-hitting facts. In 1972, “there were 300,000 people in jails and prisons,” he says, "today, there are 2.3 million,” even though violent crime hasn’t increased. Stevenson goes on to illustrate that communities of color and those with high rates of poverty make up a disproportionate percentage of people behind bars. Being wealthy, rather than being innocent, it seems, is the best way to avoid being locked up in the U.S.
“Our identity as a people is at risk,” he says, “when we don't care about difficult things, like poverty, inequality, and injustice in this country.” Watch the talk for yourself and tell us what you think.
Bryan Stevenson is also member of the board of directors of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Foundations.