Person

Bryan Stevenson

Born:

November 14, 1959

Nationality:

American

Occupation:

Founder, Equal Justice Initiative

Professor, New York University School of Law

Bryan Stevenson is a criminal justice lawyer who founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a left-of-center nonprofit that provides legal defense to death-row inmates in Alabama. Stevenson is a member of the Open Society Foundations U.S. Programs board. [1]

Stevenson argues that Black Americans are victims of terror from the United States Government because the criminal justice system unfairly treats them. He also argues that poverty is a foundational factor in discrimination against minorities. For those reasons, he advocates for left-of-center policy that would supposedly prevent poverty and reduce sentences for most convictions.

Career

In 1981, Bryan Stevenson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Eastern University and a law degree from Harvard Law School and a master’s in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 1985. [2] [3] While in law school, Stevenson worked for Stephen Bright’s Southern Center for Human Rights, which helps represent inmates on death-row. [4]

After graduating from Harvard Law, Stevenson moved to Atlanta, Georgia, to work full-time for the Southern Center for Human Rights and was subsequently sent to work for its chapter in Alabama. [5] In 1989, he was then appointed to lead the Alabama chapter, which was funded by Congress and provided legal counseling for individuals on death row or facing the death penalty. [6]

In 1995, Stevenson was awarded a MacArthur Grant and used the money to create the Equal Justice Initiative after Congress eliminated funding for death-penalty defense. He currently serves as executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. [7]

Stevenson founded the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, raising an estimated $20 million from private foundations to acquire 6 acres of land and create the memorial. It was created to honor Black people who were lynched between 1877 and 1950. [8]

Equal Justice Initiative

The Equal Justice Initiative is a left-of-center nonprofit organization founded by Bryan Stevenson in Alabama that provides legal representation to defendants in death-penalty cases where there is no public funding for their defense. It also advocates for eliminating the death penalty, excessive punishment for minors, and mandatory minimum sentencing. [9]

Advocacy

Bryan Stevenson advocates for left-of-center legislation that includes eliminating the death penalty and reducing sentences for children. Stevenson claims that a racial bias against minorities has led to discrepancies among incarceration rates and that policy should be implemented to undo those discrepancies. [10]

Stevenson is a career defense lawyer and criticizes the death penalty for being “a perverse monument to inequality.” He cites the number of death-row inmates who have their cases overturned after being convicted as reasoning for eliminating the death penalty. [11]

As executive director of Equal Justice Initiative, Stevenson leads campaigns against “excessive and unfair sentencing,” and abuse of mentally ill inmates. He also leads major campaigns in support of public policy that would allegedly prevent poverty as a means to end discrimination. [12]

References

  1. “Bryan Stevenson: Why New Orleans Matters.” Open Society Foundations. Accessed November 1, 2021. https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/bryan-stevenson-why-new-orleans-matters. ^
  2. Grant, Meg. “Bryan Stevenson.” PEOPLE.com, November 27, 1995. https://people.com/archive/bryan-stevenson-vol-44-no-22/. ^
  3. “Bryan Stevenson’s Biography.” The HistoryMakers. Accessed November 1, 2021. https://www.thehistorymakers.org/biography/bryan-stevenson. ^
  4. Grant, Meg. “Bryan Stevenson.” PEOPLE.com, November 27, 1995. https://people.com/archive/bryan-stevenson-vol-44-no-22/. ^
  5. Grant, Meg. “Bryan Stevenson.” PEOPLE.com, November 27, 1995. https://people.com/archive/bryan-stevenson-vol-44-no-22/. ^
  6. Toobin, Jeffrey, Atul Gawande, and Rachel Aviv. “The Legacy of Lynching, on Death Row.” The New Yorker, August 15, 2016. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/08/22/bryan-stevenson-and-the-legacy-of-lynching. ^
  7. Toobin, Jeffrey, Atul Gawande, and Rachel Aviv. “The Legacy of Lynching, on Death Row.” The New Yorker, August 15, 2016. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/08/22/bryan-stevenson-and-the-legacy-of-lynching. ^
  8. Miller, James H. “Alabama Memorial Confronts America’s Racist History.” The Art Newspaper – International art news and events. The Art Newspaper – International art news and events, September 28, 2021. https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2018/04/16/alabama-memorial-confronts-americas-racist-history. ^
  9. “About the Equal Justice Initiative.” Equal Justice Initiative, February 1, 2021. https://eji.org/about/. ^
  10. Miller, James H. “Alabama Memorial Confronts America’s Racist History.” The Art Newspaper – International art news and events. The Art Newspaper – International art news and events, September 28, 2021. https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2018/04/16/alabama-memorial-confronts-americas-racist-history. ^
  11. “’I Went to Death Row for 28 Years through No Fault of My Own’.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, April 1, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/01/i-went-to-death-row-for-28-years-through-no-fault-of-my-own-. ^
  12. “Bryan Stevenson.” Equal Justice Initiative, February 11, 2020. https://eji.org/bryan-stevenson/. ^
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