Bryan Stevenson’s Masterful TED Talk Challenges America’s Judicial System

Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson

Human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson’s insightful TED speech from 2012 eloquently discusses the injustices of our current incarceration system and encourages us all to help change it.  If you haven’t seen it previously, GBN guarantees the above video is fully worth twenty three minutes of your time.  To learn more about Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, click here.  

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson; contributions by Gabriel Ryder

One thought on “Bryan Stevenson’s Masterful TED Talk Challenges America’s Judicial System”

  1. It is good to see people like Bryan Stevenson fighting the judicial system. Our country is in need of serious criminal justice reform. Me and my husband are also speaking out for the need of reform. My husband, Lenny Singleton, is the perfect example of sentencing disparity and need for our country to end mass incarceration. We met each other in high school, a magnet school, developed to help in the desegregation of America in Tulsa, OK. Tulsa was the site of one of the worst race riots in US History — The Tulsa Race Riots of 1921. It is fairly poignant for me to think about now. It is time that people are judged by the quality of their spirit and actions and not on the color of their skin. Lenny saved my life. You see I was headed down a path towards death and paralysis from the neck down and because I reunited with Lenny when I did I was spared this fate. Lenny created a miracle in my life. I searched for Lenny for over 28 years before I finally found him in Nottoway Correctional Facility in 2012. I was devastated by what happened to him after high school. Lenny had won a full athletic scholarship and graduated a year ahead of me. Everyone loved Lenny so to find him finally incarcerated was devastating. Lenny committed 8 “grab and dash” robberies in a 7 day period while high on alcohol and crack cocaine. For 6 of these robberies he received 2 Life Sentences plus 100 years with no chance of parole — basically, a death sentence. When I heard this, I thought, “Oh my God, how many people did Lenny kill to get this kind of time?” But Lenny did not kill anyone. He didn’t have a gun. In fact, not one person was even physically injured. He stole a total of less than $550 and these were his first felonies. He wasn’t a habitual criminal or part of a gang. He earned a college degree and served in our Navy before he allowed his addiction to crack to destroy his life. I was horrified to learn what had happened to my friend. The judge, without any explanation to Lenny or the court, gave him more time than repeat violent offenders, child molesters, rapists, kidnappers and murderers. I began writing everyone I could think of — am still writing everyone I can think of. We also began writing each other and as I caught Lenny up over the last 28 years I realized what bad shape I was in — at least 80 lbs. overweight and terribly unhappy. I began walking and making better food choice and with Lenny’s constant encouragement, I lost 60 lbs. in about 4 months, so much weight that I was able to feel the lump in my left armpit. This was eventually diagnosed as Stage IV Triple Negative Breast Cancer with the discovery of a tumor on my spine threatening to paralyze me from the neck down — another death sentence. But today, with Lenny’s help, my body is currently “resolved” of cancer and I am walking. Now, I am trying to create a miracle for Lenny. To that end we have written and published a book together, “Love Conquers All.” And along the way, we fell in love. I married Lenny while incarcerated for life because I believe in his reformed nature 110%. During the entire 20 years of incarceration so far, he has not received a single infraction for anything with no motivation like early release to be the best person he can be. America needs to wake up — to keep Lenny incarcerated for the rest of his life will cost taxpayers well over a million dollars — for stealing less than $550 in crimes where no one was even physically injured — this makes absolutely no sense. And there are cases all over this country of sentencing disparity — men and women of color that have been unjustly incarcerated given more time than a white person committing the same crime. This has got to stop. Lenny and I are a bridge and our book is a testament to what can happen when we come together for a better tomorrow. To learn more about Lenny and sign his petition, please visit our website at http://www.justice4lenny.org.

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