Just Mercy is a powerful book/movie that captures the life of Walter McMillian through the retelling of a true story. Marissa and I watched the convicting, and at times overwhelming scenes unfold as systemic racism continues to suffocate the lives of the black community every single day.
What was most convicting for us was that this wasn't a story of racism recreated from the '60s... this true story took place in the early 1990s (source here). In 1993, two years before Marissa was born, Walter McMillian was released from death row for a crime he did not commit (source here) and sentenced to death row before he even had a trial.
Only 27 years ago.
The sheriff who arrested Walter Mcmillian served as sheriff roughly 25 more years before he retired peacefully and received no punishment for his actions (source here).
The movie encouraged me to do some research and learn about our prison system and how systemic racism plays a role in incarcerating individuals. Below are some facts about the United States prison system and sources posted with them.
Facts About Incarceration In The United States:
1) The United States has roughly 5% of the world's population, yet we have almost 25% of the entire world's prison population (source here).
2) "Thirty states still have the death penalty, but its use is at record lows. According to a report by the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, 2018 marked the fourth consecutive year with fewer than 30 executions and 50 death sentences, reflecting a long-term decline of capital punishment (source here)."
3) "In the 80s there were less than half a million people in the US prison system, but now, thanks to the war on drugs, there are more than 2 million? That out of every 100,000 Americans about 700 are incarcerated, but out of every 100,000 Black men over 4,000 are incarcerated? And one of the many effects of that trend is that combined with felony disenfranchisement laws, it means 13% of Black American men are denied their right to vote (source here)?"
4) "Black and white Americans sell and use drugs at similar rates, but black Americans are 2.7 times as likely to be arrested for drug-related offenses (source here)."
5) "Since 1973, more than 165 people have been released from death row after evidence of their innocence was uncovered. A shocking rate of error has emerged: for every nine people executed in this country, one innocent person has been exonerated. Wrongful convictions have been found to result from erroneous eyewitness identifications, false and coerced confessions, misconduct by police and prosecutors, inadequate legal defense, false or misleading forensic evidence, and perjury by witnesses who are promised lenient treatment or other incentives in exchange for their testimony. Nine people have been exonerated in Alabama. Walter McMillian, Randall Padgett, Gary Drinkard, Louis Griffin, Wesley Quick, James Cochran, Charles Bufford, Anthony Ray Hinton, and Daniel Moore were found not guilty of the crimes that originally put them on Alabama’s death row (source here)."
"Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause." - Isaiah 1:17, ESV
So What Can We Do?
1) Education. Learn about what is going on at the local and national level. The movie Just Mercy is also available to stream for FREE on Amazon, Youtube, and Google for the month of June (2020).
2) Vote for changes you wish to see on the local and national level
3) Partner with an organization such as EJI (site here) or Brennan Center For Justice (site here) to help raise awareness regarding mass incarceration rates and systemic racism.
4) Participate. Do your part in being a person of justice and mercy (see Micah 6:8).
I hope this blog was informational and you learned something from it, just as I did as I was researching. Continue to educate yourself about things that exist in our world. I also encourage everyone to participate with me in the ministry of reconciliation as seen in 2 Corinthians 5. Through Christ, we can continue to seek justice for the oppressed.
Let me know how I can pray for you.