Mrs. Yvonne Racine’s senior Theology students were joined on April 8 via Zoom by Jane Hogan, Legal Director of the nonprofit Louisiana Parole Project, in conjunction with their study of Bryan Stevenson’s book Just Mercy. Stevenson’s book chronicles his journey to create the Equal Justice Initiative, and is part of the course’s study of Catholic social teaching. The conversation with Hogan helped the students put a face to the question of “what is mercy?”
Hogan hails from and currently practices in Louisiana, which has the highest incarceration rate in the world. As a specialist in post-conviction litigation, Ms. Hogan works with clients after they have served time in prison, typically 10-20 years or more. Telling the students that “Justice isn’t reserved for people who are innocent,” she discussed the role that poverty and substance abuse can play in the commission of crimes, while also acknowledging that serious crimes do need to be punished. “I believe that you are not defined by the worst thing that you have ever done,” was a point she made clear to the students. Hogan answered questions about the circumstances that can sometimes lead to a wrongful conviction, and what justice means for someone who has been found guilty.
Hogan found her way into the practice of law after spending time overseas and working in other fields. Her advice to the seniors was that “things fall into place when you find your calling,” and that life is long and doesn’t follow a straight line. Hopefully this was welcome advice to the seniors, as they begin to make college and career choices!