As a human rights lawyer, professor, humanitarian, and author, Bryan Stevenson MPP/JD 1985 LLD 2015 works to fight poverty and challenge racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. He also serves as an advocate for mentally ill individuals, children who have been sentenced as adults, and those who are abused while incarcerated. He educates communities about racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, poverty, and racial inequality in America. He has successfully argued many cases before the United States Supreme Court; his most recent victory involved a ruling that mandatory, life-without-parole sentences for all children age 17 or younger were unconstitutional.

Bryan Stevenson MPP/JD 1985 LLD 2015

In 1994, when Congress eliminated funding for death-penalty defenses for indigent individuals, Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama. EJI has gone on to win relief for 125 people in the United States who were wrongly condemned to death row. In addition, EJI works to reduce and remove bias in the criminal justice system by representing poor people, defending people during the appeals process, and overturning wrongful convictions. It also provides resources for establishing grassroots advocacy efforts and finding volunteer opportunities with prisoner reentry and reform organizations. EJI recently opened a museum and a memorial in Montgomery to explore the legacy of slavery, racial terrorism, segregation, and the contemporary issues of mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and violence by the police. In 1995, Stevenson received a MacArthur Genius Award, and used all the funding to support EJI’s work. Stevenson is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (2014). His 2012 TED Talk is one of the most viewed TED Talks.