Brian Stevens, School Of Government, Harvard. discussed on All of It
Called true true justice brian stevens fight for equality true justice when you think about true justice what does that look like it looks radically different than what we're seeing today i don't think we have true justice when we have the world's highest rate of incarceration we have too much wealth too many resources too many possibilities for helping people in this country to be the most punitive society on the planet i think true justice means getting past this contrived view of drug addiction and drug dependency we said that people who are addicted and dependent are criminals when we should have said people with addiction independently have a health problem we need our healthcare system to respond to that problem i think true justice means that we don't put people in jails or prisons if they're not a threat to public safety and there are hundreds of thousands of people in our jails in prisons who are not a threat to public safety i think true justice means committing ourselves to rehabilitation and helping people recover it's about how we protect the health of a community how we improve public safety by doing more things for people who are victims of crime but also doing more things to help people never re-offend i think true justice means changing the way we talk about mental health in one of my new campaigns is really about what we're doing to people with severe disabilities we enforce the americans with disabilities act and the private sector and the public sector but not in the justice sector because of mandatory sentencing judges can't consider someone severe mental illness when they have to impose a punishment and i think it's unusual to care about people with disabilities in the private and public sector but not the justice sector and it's cruel to condemn someone two decades of imprisonment because they are disabled and so that needs to change that's what we're challenging the constitutionality of those kinds of sentences and i think to justice would just get us all closer to creating an environment where we are Actually reduce crime by improving health. And I don't think that's where we are in this country when you're in law school at Harvard. did they talk about these issues did you learn about these issues and ways to approach these issues not really i was in law school in the early eighties it was before the advent of clinical legal education and to be honest i was really frustrated in my first law school i went because i was concerned about racial inequality concerned about social injustice and it didn't seem like anybody was talking about that and actually left my first year and went to the school of government to pursue a degree in public policy didn't find that very affirming either just seem like we were being taught to maximize benefits and minimize costs but it didn't seem to matter who's got maximize who's caused minimize then i went back to the law school and what turned things around for me was actually taking an internship where i spent a month with a human rights organization providing legal services to people on death row that's where i met people literally dying for legal assistance and it was puck seventy two the condemn that began to radicalize my thinking about the law and i felt this desire to help condemned people get to something that felt more like justice and that's what radicalized law study for me when i got back you couldn't get me out of the law school library i needed to know everything about comedy and federalism and all of the doctrine that was going to be necessary to help condemned people and it's why i think clinical legal education the movement that is shaped education more recently where students are required to get proximate to to the poor to the excluded are required to learn about the dynamics and structures and systems that deny so many people access to justice is such a critically Important innovation in law school education. I'm wondering, because once you get out of law school, and you decide, okay, this is going to be my life's work. How and when did you decide this issue needs to be approached differently? when did you realize they're dippy a different approach because there were people who were concerned about it but necessarily weren't getting the results that they wanted or that you want yeah i it began early i worked on a case called mcklusky versus camp which was a united states court case where the court was being asked to strike down the death penalty because of racial bias and if some very powerful data in that case that established that you're eleven times more likely to get the death penalty if the victim is widen if the victim is black twenty two times more likely if the defendants black the victim is white and despite that the u._s. supreme court upheld georgia's death penalty by saying two things the first thing they said was if we deal with these racial disparities in the death penalty context we're going to have to deal with racial disparities in other areas we're gonna have to talk about this and the burglary setting the drug setting and misdemeanor setting and the courts that's too much for us to deal with and justice brennan wrote this heartbreaking descent where he ridiculed the court analysis as quote a fear of too much justice and he was right the court was essentially saying this problem is too big for us but it was the second thing the courts that started to really move me away and the court said certain amount of bias of certain level of racial inequality is quote inevitable and this doctrine of inevitability was radically at odds with what the court set in brown versus word of education it's a big truck and i realized that that was a loss of commitment to eliminating buys and discrimination and i've always been motivated by what the court has on the outside it has equal justice under law and i couldn't reconcile a commitment to equal justice onto law with this doctrine of inevitability and we kept fighting we kept fighting continued to do the work but it began to grow into this consciousness that things were going to have to change we we're going to have to talk differently about history and justice even to get the institutions of justice to do with they're supposed to do my guest is bryan stevenson the name of the documentaries true justice brian stevenson's fight for equality who came to you and said let's let's make documentaries and why did you say yes i know why you want to see us because the bigger picture but and when you said yes what were your conditions you know that's a great question i've been really reluctant to be a part of these kinds of things i really prefer just kind of being with clients doing the work but i guess i was growing increasingly frustrated that we weren't seeing the kind of storytelling that i think we need to see i worked with eva do for nay on thirteenth and was really inspired by the impact of that project it made me kind of think more openly about what we can do with film and the and the success of the book also got me thinking differently than i had thought previously and my only condition was that we i didn't want to put any of my clients at risk until we were going to have to tell the story in a way that didn't expose people in ways with they would be targets for retribution or people got angry they would be challenged and and you know we we opened up these new sites and so i did realize we're going to have to talk more broadly and and the folks were great jackie oliver who is the executive producer had made some film on slavery and that was really impressed with that and she introduced me to the coon hearts and trey alice with somebody we were working with on a short film and so i felt comfortable with the folks and that's how this that's how this happened we'll have more with bryan stevenson after quick break.