The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world. In 1972, the US prison population was 300,000 people. Today it’s 2.3 million.
This includes 3,000 kids serving life sentences.
“I started representing children on death row 20 years ago, and I was struck by how desperately they wanted and needed mentoring, parenting, guidance.
They were in every sense of the word “kids,” and that surprised me initially. . . . What I saw was that not only were they vulnerable and disabled and exposed in ways that adult clients weren’t, but they were also responsive in ways that adult clients weren’t. . . . The second thing was just seeing how exposed kids are in the adult system, how victimised, how brutalised. The biggest problem we have is the profound absence of hope” The opportunities that were given to me I want to give to other people who are disadvantaged and disfavored and marginalised. And in my generation, I think the place where those needs are most compelling and most dramatic is in the criminal justice system. One out of three young black men is in jail or in prison. I go into communities where half of the young men of color are under criminal justice control, where you see states like Alabama that have permanently disenfranchised over a third of the black male population. I see real threats to the kinds of freedom and opportunities that I experienced as a result of the work that was done before me, and I feel a need to respond to that.”
He began his effort with detailed research:
Among more than 2,000 juveniles (age 17 or younger) who had been sentenced to life in prison without parole, he and staff members at the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), the nonprofit law firm he established in 1989, documented 73 involving defendants as young as 13 and 14. Children of color, he found, tended to be sentenced more harshly.
“The data made clear that the criminal justice system was not protecting children, as is done in every other area of the law,” he says. So he began developing legal arguments “that these condemned children were still children.”
He first made those arguments before the Supreme Court in 2009, in a case involving a 13-year-old who had been convicted in Florida of sexual battery and sentenced to life in prison without parole. The court declined to rule in that case—but upheld Stevenson’s reasoning in a similar case it had heard the same day, Graham v. Florida, ruling that sentencing a juvenile to life without parole for crimes other than murder violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Idealists, particularly the scheduling Idealists, those who prefer a clear agenda or program, and who are comfortable directing others to act or to think in certain ways. Mentoring is the act of developing the mind or mentality of others, and Mentors are so enthusiastic and charismatic — in a word, so inspiring — that without seeming to do so they can help others to grow, kindling in them a passion for learning and guiding them in the search for their true nature. There are other less benign kinds of mental influence, of course, brainwashing and mind-control, for instance, but fortunately Mentors are diplomatic in their directiveness, which means they are ethical and benevolent with others, sensitive to their needs, and wanting the best for them. Mentors work to develop human potential in two different but related ways, depending on whether they are inclined to be the outgoing, expressive Teacher or the reserved Counselor. [Please Understand Me II]
Bryan A. Stevenson, Counselor Idealist, born in 1959, is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a private, non-profit organization headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama and is a professor at New York University School of Law. He has gained national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color in the criminal justice system. Stevenson has assisted in securing relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, advocated for poor people and developed community-based reform litigation aimed at improving the administration of criminal justice.
A graduate of Eastern College, Harvard Law School, and the JFK School of Government at Harvard University, he has won the American Bar Association’s Wisdom Award for public service, the ACLU’s National Medal of Liberty (1991), a MacArthur Foundation “Genius”Award, (1989) Reebok Human Rights Award, Thurgood Marshall Medal of Justice (1993), Gleitsman Citizen Activist Award (2000), Olof Palme Prize (2000), Stanford Law School’s National Public Service Award (2010), and the National Association of Public Interest Lawyers named him the Public Interest Lawyer of the Year (1996). He is a co-recipient of the 2009 Gruber Prize for Justice, which is presented to individuals or organizations for contributions that have advanced the cause of justice as delivered through the legal system. The award is intended to acknowledge individual efforts, as well as to encourage further advancements in the field and progress toward bringing about a fundamentally just world. In 2010, the NAAACP honored Stevenson by awarding him the William Robert Ming Advocacy Award for the spirit of financial and personal sacrifice displayed in his legal work.
In 2012 he spoke at TED, Long Beach, California and received the strongest standing ovation ever seen at TED. Following his presentation, over $1 million was raised by attendees to fund a campaign run by Stevenson to end the practice of putting children in adult jails and prisons. [Wikipedia, revised]
Bryan Stevenson is a soft-spoken man, reserved in nature. He carries with him cadence and eloquence, and the palpable sorrow that comes with a lifetime advocating, working with, and for the condemned.
He commutes to New York, where he is a professor of clinical law at New York University School of Law. In Montgomery he lives alone, and aged 52, spends 12, sometimes 14 hours a day working out of his office and escapes, too rarely, into music.
“I have a piano, which provides some therapy,” he says. “I am mindful, most of the time, of the virtues of regular exercise. I grow citrus in pots in my backyard. That’s pretty much it.”
Counselors tend to be more private in their style of facilitating personal growth, but they still work enthusiastically with their clients, guiding them along the pathways that their nature allows them to follow. These quiet Mentors have profound insight into the emotional needs of others, a keen intuition about their buried feelings, and they can affect their students in unconscious ways, encouraging and enabling them to get in touch with themselves. Counselors advise, appeal, prescribe, recommend, shepherd, suggest, urge — all with the intention of helping others discover those things that enhance their well-being. [Please Understand Me II ]
Growing up in rural Milton, Delaware, he began his education in a “colored” school and experienced other forms of discrimination, such as black and white entrances to the doctor’s and dentist’s offices, prevailed. Raised in the centre of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, his parents worked and provided an economic and emotional stability that many around him lacked. He would play the piano during worship. His father and his sister, (a music teacher), still live in Delaware. His brother teaches at the University of Pennsylvania. His mother died in 1999.
When Stevenson was 16, his maternal grandfather was murdered in Philadelphia by four juveniles; they were convicted and sentenced to prison. Stevenson does not know what has become of them.
“Losing a loved one is traumatic, painful and disorienting,” he says. That episode, and others in which relatives or friends became crime victims, “reinforced for me the primacy of responding to the conditions of hopelessness and despair that create crime.”
He did not, he says, “step into a world where you were not centered around faith” until he entered Harvard Law School in 1981. The world of privilege and entitlement left him alienated, as did the study of torts and civil procedure. In January 1983, he went to Atlanta for a month-long internship with an organization now called the Southern Center for Human Rights.
The lawyers there defended inmates on death row, many of whom, Stevenson discovered, had been railroaded in flawed trials.
He had found his calling.
It is also the case that Counselors are eager to guide those in need of it for long periods of time and with untiring effort.. [Please Understand Me II]
He returned to the center when he graduated and became a staff attorney. He spent his first year of work sleeping on a borrowed couch.
He found himself frequently in Alabama, which sentences more people to death per capita than any other state. There is no state-funded program to provide legal assistance to death-row prisoners, meaning half of the condemned were represented by court-appointed lawyers whose compensation was capped at $1,000. Stevenson’s reviews of trial records convinced him that few of the condemned ever had an adequate defense.
Stevenson then went on to found the Equal Justice Initiative, a private, non-profit organization headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama, and is also a professor at New York University School of Law. He has gained acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color in the criminal justice system, he has assisted in securing relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, advocated for poor people and developed reforms in the criminal justice system.
“We have a system of justice in [the US] that treats you much better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent. Wealth, not culpability, shapes outcomes.
Why do we want to kill all the broken people?
Why do we want to throw away all the broken people?
Why do we want to hide all the broken people?”
Morale has to do with the state of one’s spirits, and Idealists, from the time they are children, seem preoccupied with how those around them, their loved ones, their classmates, or their circle of friends, are feeling about themselves. Thus Idealists are concerned with others’ feelings of worth, or with their self-image — their self-esteem, self-respect, and self-confidence. And they want to do everything they can to keep people feeling good about themselves, to lift their spirits, to brighten their mood, to boost their morale….
Idealists become involved so instinctively that they can easily become weighted down with too many troubled relationships. Idealist counselors, in particular, have to learn to disconnect themselves from their clients to some extent, or risk being emotionally overwhelmed. [Please Understand Me II]
Fifty years ago, the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in the case of Gideon v. Wainwright established the constitutional right of criminal defendants to legal representation, even if they can’t afford it. The Court ruled there shouldn’t be one kind of justice for the rich and another for the poor, but the scales of the American legal system still tilt heavily in favor of the white and wealthy.
Idealists regard this search for identity as the most important enterprise in their lives, and with their gift for language they can be powerful advocates for it being a necessary pilgrimage for all people. Very often the other types, the Guardians, Rationals, and Artisans, are troubled by the thought that they ought to be pursuing this goal, even if the search for Self does not beckon them. The reluctance of over ninety percent of humanity to join the search for self-actualization is a great source of mystification to the Idealists. [Please Understand Me II]
“There is power in identity.” (Bryan Stevenson)
The Orientation of Idealists
We are born into a social field and we live out our lives in that field, never, for long, stepping outside of it into some no-man’s-land disconnected from social reality. [Please Understand Me II]
In this country, in the states of the Old South,we execute people — where you’re 11 times more likely to get the death penalty if the victim is white than if the victim is black, 22 times more likely to get it if the defendant is black and the victim is white — in the very states where there are buried in the ground the bodies of people who were lynched. And yet, there is this disconnect.
Well I believe that our identity is at risk.
That when we actually don’t care about these difficult things, the positive and wonderful things are nonetheless implicated. We love innovation. We love technology. We love creativity. We love entertainment. But ultimately, those realities are shadowed by suffering, abuse, degradation, marginalization. or me, it becomes necessary to integrate the two. Because ultimately we are talking about a need to be more hopeful, more committed, more dedicated to the basic challenges of living in a complex world. For me that means spending time thinking and talking about the poor, the disadvantaged, thinking about them in a way that is integrated in our own lives.
You know ultimately, we all have to believe things we haven’t seen.
As rational as we are, as committed to intellect as we are.Innovation, creativity,development comesnot from the ideas in our mind alone. They come from the ideas in our mind that are also fueled by some conviction in our heart. It’s that mind-heart connection that I believe compels us to not just be attentive to all the bright and dazzly things, but also the dark and difficult things.
Vaclav Havel, the great Czech leader, talked about this.
He said, “When we were in Eastern Europe and dealing with oppression,we wanted all kinds of things,but mostly what we needed was hope,an orientation of the spirit,a willingness to sometimes be in hopeless placesand be a witness.”
We need to find ways to embrace these challenges,these problems, the suffering, ultimately, our humanity dependson everyone’s humanity.
I’ve learned very simple things doing the work that I do.
It’s just taught me very simple things.I’ve come to understand and to believe that each of usis more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.
I believe that for every person on the planet.
I think if somebody tells a lie, they’re not just a liar.
I think if somebody takes something that doesn’t belong to them, they’re not just a thief.
I think even if you kill someone, you’re not just a killer, because of that there’s this basic human dignity that must be respected by law. I also believe that in many parts of this country, and certainly in many parts of this globe, that the opposite of poverty is not wealth.
I don’t believe that.
Mentors have profound insight into the emotional needs of others, a keen intuition about their buried feelings, and they can affect their students in unconscious ways, encouraging and enabling them to get in touch with themselves. Counselors advise, appeal, prescribe, recommend, shepherd, suggest, urge — all with the intention of helping others discover those things that enhance their well-being. [Please Understand Me II]
I actually think, in too many places, the opposite of poverty is justice. (Stevenson)
Find your mirror go and look inside
And see the talent you always hide
Don’t go kidd yourself well not today
Satisfaction’s not to far away
Hold on now your exits here
It’s waiting just for you
The Diplomatic Counselor [INFJ] Counseling is the side of mentoring that focuses on helping people to realize their human potential, and Counselors have an unusually strong desire to contribute to the welfare of others and genuinely enjoy guiding their companions toward greater personal fulfillment. Counselors are scarce, little more than one percent of the population, which is too bad, considering their usefulness in the social order. Although these Counselors tend to be private, sensitive people, and thus are not usually visible leaders, they work intensely with those close to them, quietly exerting their influence behind the scenes with their families, friends, and colleagues. These seclusive and friendly people are complicated themselves, and so can understand and deal with complex ethical issues and with deeply troubled individuals. [Please Understand Me II]
“These young kids who I have sometimes pulled close to me, there is nothing more affirming than that moment. It may not carry them as long as I want. But I feel as if my humanity is at its clearest and most vibrant.”
“…our visions of technology and design and entertainment and creativity have to be married with visions of humanity, compassion, and justice.” (Bryan Stevenson, Counselor Idealist INFJ)