One topic that Stevenson highlights in his novel is the injustices and flaws within the American criminal justice system, predominantly by demonstrating how there are serious concerns about race and class. The main area through which he can do this is by demonstrating how the entire situation surrounding Walter is unfair, and that the majority of the basis as to why he is even being accused in the first place is due to his race. He states, at one point, that “those judges [are] throwing people away like they’re not even human,” referring to how the criminal justice system currently in place has gained a reputation for dehumanizing victims and making the legal process more of a conveyer belt to jail rather than an actual process to prove innocence (Stevenson).
Samuel Sommers and Phoebe Ellsworth, authors of “White Juror Bias: An Investigation of Prejudice Against Black Defendants in the American Courtroom,” discuss this issue further, describing how “white juror bias is more consequential and dangerous than bias demonstrated by black jurors or jurors of other minority groups,” demonstrating how they also believe that race continues to be a playing factor in how some court cases play out (Sommers & Ellsworth 202).
The rest of the article continues to zone in on the injustices that are present in the courtroom, specifically targeted towards the issue of race, while the book focuses more on the entire criminal justice system and society as a whole, defining their differences; however, they both reach the conclusion that this system must be repaired at some point, or it will only continue to become more inclined to be corrupt and unjust.
In addition to this, another topic that Stevenson includes in his book has to do with three-strikes-you’re-out laws, just because how the individuals who are featured in his story are often facing injustices from the American criminal justice system and are, as a result, being treated as though they are much more serious criminals than they are. Walter, the man who was convicted in the story, was sentenced to death for a crime that he did not even commit, being only one example of an individual in that period who was a victim of the three-strikes-you’re-out style of law that was present at that period, even stronger for those of his race who often only received one strike. Lisa Stolzenberg and Stewart J.
D’Alessio, writers of “‘Three Strikes and You’re Out: The Impact of California’s New Mandatory Sentencing Law on Serious Crime Rates,” state that “in California, for example, convicted felony offenders with serious prior criminal records already were receiving enhanced penalties before the implementation of the three-strikes law,” indicating that they were not being held to the same standard as others of different races (Stolzenberg & D’Alessio 465). It becomes abundantly clear that while the article itself is focusing on a more centered sample of individuals from California, using it as a representative group for the rest of the nation, the point of overlap between the two pieces is that it becomes clear that certain individuals and groups are more likely to be the target of these three-strikes-you’re-out laws, regardless of whether they have hit three strikes yet or not.