“Wealth, Not Culpability, Shapes Outcomes” in Court

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In a 2012 TED talk — which has been viewed over a million times — this week’s guest, lawyer Bryan Stevenson, talks about the hard truths of America’s unequal justice system, the incredible disenfranchisement of those with criminal convictions and his own upbringing in Delaware.

[M]ass incarceration, in my judgment, has fundamentally changed our world. In poor communities, in communities of color there is this despair, there is this hopelessness, that is being shaped by these outcomes. One out of three black men between the ages of 18 and 30 is in jail, in prison, on probation or parole. In urban communities across this country — Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington — 50 to 60 percent of all young men of color are in jail or prison or on probation or parole.

Our system isn’t just being shaped in these ways that seem to be distorting around race, they’re also distorted by poverty. We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent. Wealth, not culpability, shapes outcomes. And yet, we seem to be very comfortable. The politics of fear and anger have made us believe that these are problems that are not our problems. We’ve been disconnected. Read the full transcript ยป

Stevenson’s talk reportedly received the longest standing ovation in TED history and the video version is included in TED’s curated “Pursuit of Justice” playlist.

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