Our Cruel World

The word “convicted criminal” paints a picture in many peoples’ minds of a psychotic murderer who has done a horrific crime as depicted in the movies. One of the biggest problems in society is the superficial mindset of tagging a criminal with a lifelong sentence which makes it almost impossible for that person to rejoin society and live a normal life. Sometimes people think that they know what’s going on in someone’s life, when they might just barely be scratching the surface. In “Higher Ground,” Bryan Stevenson explains his experience going to a death row prison for the first time. Today, convicted criminals are forced to go through a lot, such as enduring many terrible things and death row prisoners are treated even worse, they are judged on one mistake in their life and they have little chance of becoming a law-abiding citizen again, and some of the cases are misinterpreted and unfairly ruled on.

Stevenson shares how intimidating the building looked as he drove up to the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Center. It was as if the prison’s name was chosen to make what was done in that building seem less horrifying (58-63). People who are incarcerated endure many terrible things and some of them are put on death row and treated even worse. There are so many people who are incarcerated every year that feel as if they are animals in cages, whereas they are likely to be abused and traumatized daily. These people don’t feel that they are treated like they are human.

There are different places for people on death row, and they are even worse than regular prisons. There is little to no contact with people other than death row guards or other death row prisoners. The prisoners on death row are treated even worse than prisoners at a normal prison. After they are sentenced to death, we no longer treat them like regular people. Rather, they are just like animals awaiting the slaughter.

Stevenson writes about Henry, a man on death row that he met with while he was a legal intern with the Southern Prisoners Defense Committee. Stevenson was expecting someone rough and mean since he was on death row, he wasn’t expecting to see someone that looked just like everyone that he had grown up around. Henry showed so much compassion for Stevenson when he was unsure how to deal with the guard’s treatment of Henry. Stevenson was not expecting generosity to come from someone in Henry’s position and he was very surprised by it (58-63). For some prisoners one mistake is what defines the rest of their life and there is little chance that they will be able to ever be a law-abiding citizen again. One lapse in judgement that will either soon end their life on death row or cause them to sit in jail for many years until they could eventually die while incarcerated. It could have been an accident or a wrongful conviction because of being in the wrong place at the wrong time that could have put an innocent person in prison. Not all criminals are always guilty. There are many things that can lead up to someone committing a crime and, yes, there should be a punishment for the crime but there should also be a better way to help rehabilitate the person and help them be reintegrated back into society. Many people question how they are supposed to be rehabilitated in order to be reinstated in to everyday life.

There seems to be little to no effort in helping prisoners improve their thinking and change their way of life. Some sentences are short with a known release time, but with the recidivism rate of repeat offenders it is difficult to expect them to know how to act after becoming institutionalized. There is no guarantee that anything will change. Altering how we treat prisoners could change the number of people sent back to prison after being let out.

After meeting with prisoners on death row, Stevenson threw himself into his studies and tried to learn as much as he could about the legislation for death row and the inequality shown to different races. He was on a mission to make things right and to make sure that everyone had an equal and fair judgment under the law (Stevenson 62). Many cases are misinterpreted and unfairly ruled on just to get the case done with and not specifically to make sure that everything was fair about the trial. Rich families and celebrities’ cases are always watched by the media and they are brought through the courts and must be looked at and given a fair trial because so many people are watching for the outcome. Minorities’ cases, however, are not followed by many which makes it easy for them to be misunderstood and misinterpreted, thereby, possibly ruling in the wrong favor. Equal rulings for everyone are what should be happening in our court systems, but it seems as though we are still using racial profiling in most of the cases throughout the courts today.

Today, convicted criminals are forced to go through a lot, such as enduring many terrible things and death row prisoners are treated even worse, they are judged on one mistake in their life and they have little chance of becoming a law-abiding citizen again, and some of the cases are misinterpreted and unfairly ruled on. One decision, one mistake, or one moment, doesn’t define someone’s entire life. The legal system is making it seem that one lapse in judgment defines a person. It is so often heard that people are wrongly convicted. These choices that are made by other people as to how a person gets to live their life can possibly be ruining an innocent person’s life. Many people take advantage of the ultimate power to decide whether someone dies or goes to jail for the rest of their life. In conclusion, there is much that needs to be changed in our society, but we should start with how we treat each other.

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