The Equal Justice Initiative
By Ana Alea '21, Vivian Dueker '21, Nicole Hansen '21, Annie Keeney '21, Bella Leonard '21, Kirti Madhu '21, Esha Manchanda '21, Amari Norman '21, Zoe Shepherd '21, Taylor Slade '21, Hannah Wiemann '21, and Annie Wilkinson '21
In Mrs. Shortt's 12th grade CC English class, we recently read Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. His work with the Equal Justice Initiative and the stories told in the book, the film, and TEDTalks we watched in class, encouraged us to work with a newly formed Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program at our school and research social justice issues for our upcoming rhetorical projects. Our English class zoomed in with an EJI staff member to see what our next steps should be. She told us how imperative it is to talk about these complex issues at school so that we can all be more aware in the future, so we organized a $2 dress down day to raise money for the EJI on February 18th. To learn more, look out for posters with more facts and visit the EJI's website.
Below are two cases the EJI worked on and stats about the United States' prison industry
Walter McMillan was a black man who was found guilty of the murder of Ronda Morrison, a white woman, even though he was innocent. Most of the testimonies against him were later found to be made up or coerced by the Alabama Police and Monroeville Sheriff’s Department. Walter McMillian was released in 1993 after spending six years on death row for a crime he did not commit. For years after his release, Mr. McMillian joined Bryan Stevenson and the EJI in the fight against the death penalty until his trauma from his time in incarceration led to early onset dementia and he died on September 11, 2013.
Diane Jones was wrongly convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to life in prison without parole. When she allowed her former boyfriend to move into her home while she moved into her parents home to care for her terminally ill father, he began using Ms. Jone’s home to deal drugs unbeknownst to her. When Ms. Jones returned to her former residence to retrieve items she had left behind, a raid took place and she was interrogated and arrested. Her lawyers protected her former boyfriend rather than her, so she was left with no effective counsel. Her minor conviction 17 years earlier of her forging checks to pay for her children’s groceries triggered a sentence of life imprisonment without parole. The EJI investigated the case and after 4 years was able to get Ms. Jones a new trial. On August 17, 2006 the EJI was able to get all charges dropped against Ms Jones.
The United States holds 5% of the world's population but nearly 25% of its incarcerated population.
The United States spends $87,000,000,000 on jails and prisons. This is a 1,000% increase from the $7,400,000,000 spent in 1975.
In 1972, there were only 200,000 people incarcerated in the US. Today there are 2,200,000.
From 1980 to 2017, the number of women in United States' jails and prisons grew 750%. Today over 225,000 women are behind bars.
Use this QR code to be directed to EJI's official website to learn more or click the link here!