19 Just Mercy Quotes: A Story of The Fight for Justice

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption is a memoir penned by Bryan Stevenson. This book documents his career as a lawyer for clients from disadvantaged backgrounds. It highlights injustices that prevail in the US judicial system by featuring Stevenson’s efforts to overturn the wrongful conviction of Walter McMillian. Check out some of the top Just Mercy quotes here.

19 Quotes from Just Mercy That Are Emotionally Profound

Just Mercy Quotes on Mercy

#1. “The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving. It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent, strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering. It has the power to heal the psychic harm and injuries that lead to aggression and violence, abuse of power, mass incarceration.” ― Bryan Stevenson.

#2. “The death penalty is not about whether people deserve to die for the crimes they commit. The real question of capital punishment in this country is, do we deserve to kill?” ― Bryan Stevenson.

#3. “Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving. The people who haven’t earned it, who haven’t even sought it, are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion.” ― Bryan Stevenson.

#4. “Mercy is just when it is rooted in hopefulness and freely given.” ― Bryan Stevenson.

#5. “If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” ― Bryan Stevenson.

#6. “Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.” ― Bryan Stevenson. Just Mercy Quotes That Were Realizations

#7. “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” ― Bryan Stevenson.

#8. “There is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy. When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can’t otherwise see; you hear things you can’t otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us.” ― Bryan Stevenson.

#9. “We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and have been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent. I desperately wanted mercy for Jimmy Dill and would have done anything to create justice for him, but I couldn’t pretend that his struggle was disconnected from my own. The ways in which I have been hurt, and have hurt others, are different from the ways Jimmy Dill suffered and caused suffering. But our shared brokenness connected us.” ― Bryan Stevenson.

#10. “Capital punishment means them without the capital get the punishment.” ― Bryan Stevenson.

#11. “I have always thought of Christmastime, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.” ― Bryan Stevenson.

#12. “But simply punishing the broken, walking away from them or hiding them from sight, only ensures that they remain broken and we do, too. There is no wholeness outside of our reciprocal humanity.” ― Bryan Stevenson.

#13. “You can’t understand most of the important things from a distance, Bryan. You have to get close.” ― Bryan Stevenson.

#14. “Why do we want to kill all the broken people?” ― Bryan Stevenson.

Other Just Mercy Quotes

#15. “My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice. Finally, I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us.” ― Bryan Stevenson.

#16. “So many of us have become afraid and angry. We’ve become so fearful and vengeful that we’ve thrown away children, discarded the disabled, and sanctioned the imprisonment of the sick and the weak. Not because they are a threat to public safety or beyond rehabilitation but because we think it makes us seem tough, less broken. I thought of the victims of violent crime and the survivors of murdered loved ones, and how we’ve pressured them to recycle their pain and anguish and give it back to the offenders we prosecute. I thought of the many ways we’ve legalized vengeful and cruel punishments, how we’ve allowed our victimization to justify the victimization of others. We’ve submitted to the harsh instinct to crush those among us whose brokenness is most visible.” ― Bryan Stevenson.

#17. “We would never think it was humane to pay someone to rape people convicted of rape, or assault and abuse someone guilty of assault or abuse. Yet we were comfortable killing people who kill in part because we think we can do it in a manner that doesn’t implicate our own humanity the way that raping or abusing someone would. I couldn’t stop thinking that we don’t spend much time contemplating the details of what killing someone actually involves.” ― Bryan Stevenson.

#18. “Never before had so much lobbying money been spent to expand America’s prison population, block sentencing reforms, create new crime categories, and sustain the fear and anger that fuel mass incarceration than during the last twenty-five years in the United States.” ― Bryan Stevenson.

#19. “We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others. The closer we get to mass incarceration and extreme levels of punishment, the more I believe it’s necessary to recognize that we all need mercy, we all need justice, and-perhaps-we all need some measure of unmerited grace.” ― Bryan Stevenson.


The memoir had been honored several times, including being named as one of the best works of the year by several literary publications when it was released. It was a NY Times bestseller and spent more than 230 weeks on the paperback nonfiction list of best-selling books.

Just Mercy also won the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, which was awarded by the American Library Association. It was also named as one of the “10 of the decade’s most influential books” in December 2019 by CNN.

Image source: Bryan Stevenson photo from www.t-mobile.com