July 14, 2018


It was an inspiring discussion this morning at our July Group Meeting with 13 IGSV members. We discussed the book “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson, as well as our local criminal justice system and broader issues of inclusion and empathy. A few take-home thoughts from the book:

Our criminal justice system can be deeply unfair, particularly for people of color and for poor people. It is also very difficult to undo unjust actions/decisions because the key people in power have few direct incentives to admit error.

Our criminal justice system is incredibly expensive and inefficient. Consider when someone criticizes our high taxes not to reflexively accept that taxes should be lower, but rather that we should spend that money more wisely. You get what you pay for.

Overly harsh punishments lead to all sorts of indirect negative consequences, including tearing families and communities apart, and relegating some people to permanent disadvantages by not allowing the  m access to public assistance and limiting their job options.

We should all be better aware of the dynamics around the local women’s prison and juvenile detention center. What does this cost us and what are the economic/political incentives? Likewise, how welcoming (or unwelcoming) are our communities to people of color, immigrants, and other groups who tend to be marginalized? Our lack of diversity in Hunterdon County likely means that we are not welcoming.

Finally, Bryan Stevenson is an inspiration, both because of his work toward true justice but also because he remains optimistic despite seeing vast injustice. We can all use that inspiration in our daily lives, working to stay motivated for the long haul.

Please email any other thoughts on the book or criminal justice to catherine.riihimaki@gmail.com to share with the group, including other readings on the topic.

In August, we will have another book club discussion, this time on the book “#NeverAgain” by David and Lauren Hogg of Parkland, FL: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/599770/neveragain-by-david-hogg-and-lauren-hogg/9781984801838/. Stay tuned for the exact date!