Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Just Mercy Book Reflection Paper
For this class, students are required to write a book reflection of the non-fiction book, Just
Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. The purpose of reading the book is for students to think critically
and analyze the death penalty and racial disparity in the criminal justice system.
INSTRUCTIONS: Please refer to the next pages for tips about how to write a good book
review. Simply writing about what the book is about is NOT sufficient. Below is a list of
prompts to help you get started. Please note that these questions are not meant to be an
exhaustive list of question to consider when writing your reflection; they are simply prompts to
help you start writing.
1. Before reading the book, you may want to consider what you already know about the topic
from past experience, research or courses. This will allow you to better gauge how the book
has shaped your opinion about this topic. What is the author’s main goal in writing this
2. Explain the background of an event. Is the author trying to raise awareness about a particular
issue? What are the author’s main points? What kind of evidence does the author provide to
make her points? How convincing is this evidence?
3. What was the book about? Please provide a brief summary of the book.
4. What did you find most interesting about this book?
5. What parts of the book did you agree with (if any) and why do you agree?
6. What parts of the book did you disagree with (if any) and why do you disagree? 6.) Is there
anything that you think could have made this book better?
7. How do the issues and themes discussed in the book relate to class materials (i.e. textbook
reading, lectures, class discussions, etc.)?
8. What did you learn from this book?
9. How has this book shaped your view on the issues discussed?
10. Readers from varied backgrounds will approach this book with different knowledge and
experiences. Did Stevenson’s examples resonate with you, or were you shocked? Is the book
an eye-opener for you, or validation of what you already knew? Consider how your reaction
would differ if you were of a different race or class; were the victim of a serious crime; or
had personal experience with the justice system.
11. What are some policy and practice implications of the information discussed in this book? In
other words, what can policymakers, criminal justice practitioners, the legislature, or the
public in general do to fix the issue(s) discussed?
12. As a result of his extensive work with low income and incarcerated people, Stevenson concludes
that “the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice” (18). What does this
statement mean? What examples in the book inform Stevenson’s position on poverty and justice?
What is justice? What does ‘Just Mercy’ mean?
13. What famous novel was written in Monroe County, AL, and how is it relevant to Just Mercy?
14. What is the importance of the 1986 Batson v. Kentucky ruling?
15. In your opinion, who is most to blame for Walter’s conviction?
16. How does the race of the victim come into decisions about sentencing?
17. Should wrongfully imprisoned people receive financial restitution from the state? If so, how should
the amount be determined?
18. According to Stevenson in Chapter 16, what are the four institutions in American history that have
shaped our approach to race and justice? Do you agree?
Interwoven throughout the book in alternating chapters not related toWalter McMillian, the author also
discusses other issues within the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems. For example, one chapter
discusses mental health, mothers, and juveniles. Choose a chapter not related to the main character
Walter McMillian, and discuss the some of issues in other cases the author have fought for justice.
Below are questions from two chapters not related to Walter McMillian that you can choose if one of the
chapters sparked your interest.
• When do judge overrides increase and for what reason?
• Define the 2002 Supreme Court case of Atkins v. Virginia.
• Alabama’s capital statute requires that murder be intentional in order for a defendant to be
eligible for the death penalty. Why is this relevant in Duncan’s case?
• Duncan was a U.S. war veteran who suffered tremendous mental trauma while serving our
nation. How should that be factored into his defense?
• What evidence did criminologists have in 1991 to support their “super-predator” theory?
• How would you have changed the ruling in each of Trina, Ian, and Antonio’s sentencing?
• Each one of them came from difficult home situations. Should that make a difference in their
Minimum of 3-4 pages (not including the title page and reference page)
APA Format (See http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/)
Times New Roman/size 12 font
1 inch margins
Body: double spaced
In addition to the Just Mercy book and the required course textbook, you are required
to use at least one additional scholarly source to support your opinion on the issue. You
must cite your sources in-text and in a reference page.
Just Mercy Reflection Grading Rubric
GRADING CRITERIA POSSIBLE
Content: All required prompts have been addressed sufficiently,
including (a) a brief summary of the topics/issues discussed in
the documentary, (b) a discussion on how this topic and the
issues discussed relate to the course materials, (c) a detailed
discussion of your opinion on the issue(s) discussed and (d) the
use of additional information from at least one outside scholarly
source to support your opinion on the topic discussed. The
discussion of the documentary demonstrates evidence of solid
understanding of the main issues discussed and also provides
evidence of critical thinking.
Use of Scholarly Sources and Citations: The paper also references
a minimum of 1 additional source besides the documentary to inform
their work and support their opinion The additional sources and the
documentary are cited within the body of the paper as well as fully in
the references list at the end of the paper in proper APA format.
Clarity of Expression and Mechanics: The writing is clear and well
organized. The reader does not have to struggle to understand what
the writer is saying. The paper has been proofread so there are few if
any errors in spelling, capitalization and grammar.
The paper is in full APA format, including a title page, a running head
on each page, page numbers on each page, double-spaced, 1 inch
margins. The paper should also be in Times New Roman, size 12 font.