Social Work, Welfare, and Policy Connections

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
‘Just Mercy’ is a biographical legal drama film, written and directed by Bryan Stevenson, that displays some of the most prevalent social issues in contemporary justice system. The 2019 American film and book stars Jamie Foxx, Michael Jordan, Rob Morgan, Rafe Spall, Brie Larson, Tim Blake Nelson, and Karan Kendrick (Berry III, 2015). It emphasizes social justice, expressing a variety of flaws, including poverty and racism that are hidden underneath the exercise of law. The main character in the movie is Bryan Stevenson (Michael Jordan), a young Harvard law graduate who is determined and eager to fight for justice. After moving to Alabama, Stevenson’s mission of achieving legal and just representation of the poor in court starts. He goes to the region’s prison where he meets some of its death row inmates and reviews their cases (King, 2017). It is here that he notices contradiction in Walter McMillan’s (Jamie Foxx) case, defining the degree of injustice in society. Besides being the main starring in the film, Stevenson has highlighted social problems in the justice system, thus an urge to identify the legal policies to address them.
The Social History of Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson was an idealistic young African-American law student who graduated from Harvard University. After graduating, Stevenson moved from Delaware to Alabama to legally serve death row inmates by reviewing their cases and examining their legitimacy with the grant money he had (Berry III, 2015). One of Stevenson’s strengths was his passion in helping people. He confirmed this by helping innocent inmates who ended up in jail due to poor representation in court. Stevenson was also determined to practice social work by looking after the wellbeing of the underprivileged in society and emphasizing justice. As an African-American, he understood what it meant to be judged based on one’s race and aimed to address the issue (King, 2017). Stevenson reviewed the cases of inmates, although it was not allowed, to fight for their justice and set them free.
Social Problems in the Movie
A major social problem in the movie is racism in the criminal and justice system. As Stevenson proceeds to examine the cases of death row inmates, he discovers that other than insufficient evidence and poverty, race is a major determinant of proper representation in court (King, 2017). Besides being falsely charged with murder in 1987, Walter McMillan’s African-American race is one of the reasons he is in jail (Berry III, 2015). Racism has, since the colonial times, been an issue in the U.S. Reportedly, more than 50% of U.S prisoners are from minority races. However, Stevenson seeks to change the situation by emphasizing justice in courts and the entire criminal and justice system. His first target is McMillan, whose case he handles and ensures that he goes for a retrial (Berry III, 2015). He also intends to change the mindset of officials in correctional institutions towards minority races, particularly the African-Americans, and encourage them to ensure justice for everyone in courts and prisons.
Policy Related to Racism is the Justice System
The fourteenth amendment of the U.S constitution requires the equal protection of American citizens. In this regard, everyone is entitled to proper treatment anywhere they are regardless of their race or origin (King, 2017). Stevenson seeks to nurture an environment where the officials in law enforcement and the justice system in general protect civilians from being accused for crimes they did not commit (Berry III, 2015). Emphasizing justice and providing it to everyone without looking at their race makes them feel safe and protected. Equal protection is a federal constitutional law or policy meant to stress that all Americans are equal despite their differences. Additional changes needed to address the social problem in the movie include inspecting workers in the criminal justice system to fetch out those basing their services on one’s race and hiring new ones who abide by the law.

Berry III, W. W. (2015). Implementing Just Mercy.
King, A. (2017). Just mercy through cultural and convict criminology. Journal of criminal psychology, 8(1), 80-95.

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