For every nine people we execute, there is one exoneration.

Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, makes the point that if one in every ten aeroplanes fell out the sky the entire industry would be shut down overnight.

Why is it we turn a blind eye to unnecessary deaths in the criminal justice system?

“The criminal justice system treats you better if you are rich & guilty than if you are poor & innocent. Wealth, not culpability, shapes outcomes,” says Stevenson.

Why the non-engagement with issues of poverty, racial inequality, disenfranchisement. Why the “stunning silence”?

Stevenson moved hearts and stole the show at this year’s TED conference, one attendee has told me. He lays out some shocking statistics but puts them in a context of optimism, basically saying to the world (and the monied, influential audience) you are party to this ongoing inequality, but you no longer need to deny it.

Stevenson doesn’t say “you”, he says “we” can change it; we can adopt a collective identity that embraces the best and the worst of our society. He warns that living with eyes wide open to injustice and poverty is a much more difficult existence, but – such is his logic, persuasion and truth – the difficulty is one to relish and not one to hide from any longer.


As I intimated in January, I believe that prison and criminal justice reform is more and more discussed and in the public consciousness. The warmth shown to Stevenson and the receptiveness to his message supports my belief. We can hope that those with money and influence are right behind Stevenson and others of his ilk.

Hat-tip to Suzie Katz of PhotoWings for alerting me to Stevenson’s TED talk.