Criminalizing moms

This article makes an excellent point about black mothers – but, it also applies to any mother.  On other posts, I’ve written about mothers being held to higher standards than fathers, mothers being jailed for refusing to hand over custody to abusers, and mothers being treated unjustly by the family court system.

Jezebels, welfare queens–and now, criminally bad black moms

Nelson was chasing after him with her 2-year-old daughter in her arms when the family was hit by a driver with two prior drunk driving and hit-and-run convictions on his record. He was again drunk that night, and later served six months in jail for his crime.

For her loss, the Cobb County solicitor general charged Nelson, who didn’t even own a car, with vehicular manslaughter. When an all-white jury found her guilty in July, news of Nelson’s conviction and the possible three-year prison sentence she faced led to a national outcry and an online campaign for leniency. At her sentencing a judge gave her community service instead of jail time, and in a rare move, offered Nelson a new trial. Last week, Nelson accepted.

And –

“It’s a hard time to be a poor black mother,” Jones said. “Structurally, the support systems for them have been severely eroded and there are just more ways to punish people for being bad parents than there were in the past, because the criminal justice system is more punitive.”

In the last 20 years, women of color have become the fastest growing segment of the prison population, driven in large part by new classes of crimes that have been created or relabeled, said University of Hawaii criminologist Meda Chesney-Lind. Where 20 years ago crimes like the sale and possession of tiny amounts of drugs, or drug use during pregnancy, were not even considered crimes, today they are fueling a massive uptick in incarceration rates. The addition of mandatory minimum prison sentencing over the years eliminated judges’ discretion and contributed to these racially disparate increases.

And-

In January, Ohio mom Kelley Williams-Bolar was charged with falsifying records when she used her father’s home address to get her daughters into a better school in a wealthier neighboring school district. She served 10 days in jail, and even though the theft charges were dismissed after a similar national outcry, the felony on her record has threatened her career in special education.

In April, Norwalk, Connecticut officials prosecuted Tanya McDowell for doing something similar; she’s pleaded not guilty. “I just want to know: When does it become a crime to seek a better education for your child?” McDowell said at the time, the Norwalk Patch reported.

In 2009, South Carolina officials took Jerri Gray’s obese son Alexander Draper away from her and put him in foster care because, they argued, the teen’s health was in danger and he was no longer safe with his mother. Gray lost custody of her son, and then was charged with criminal neglect. Two years later, her charges are still pending, her attorney says, and Draper lives with his aunt. Last week, the latest in a series of studies showed how difficult it would be for a low-income family to buy groceries that meet the USDA’s standard for nutritious eating.

McDowell, Williams-Bolar, Nelson and Gray are all single parents, all black mothers struggling in tough circumstances to raise their families. Where poor black mothers are concerned, compassion’s in short supply, but there’s plenty of blame to hand over.

Want further proof? Here’s 2 cases just from today:

Shamika Koyce Dunn arrested for felony child neglect   (How many times do they put the father’s entire name in the headline?)

Authorities arrested Shamika Koyce Dunn, of Woodbridge. Her 3-year-old daughter was discovered walking in the street unattended.

Police returned the child to her home and, while investigating, Dunn returned home carrying half a bottle of wine and was in possession of marijuana, police said.

The child was in good condition. Police say young girl is now in the custody of another family member.

I’m sorry, but this behavior would be excused if it were a father (particularly if he was white). It would be considered a minor blip in his parenting skills. The child was, afterall, unharmed.

Here’s a case of a day-care provider – a very young woman (23) who’s trying to make a living taking care of children – not earning very much – and now charged with a felony – that will likely ruin her short-lived career. Again, the kids were unharmed.

Prince William day-care provider charged with neglect 

A Prince William County day-care provider was accused of child neglect after a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old in her care wandered out of her house and into the neighborhood, police said.

For a comparison to how dads are treated, look at this recent case where the boy was beat and shoved inside a stove – yes, a stove.

Son begs for leniency for dad who stuffed him in oven

A Staten Island man who brutally beat his then-9 year old son, stripping him naked, burning his hands and then throwing him into a kitchen oven, will serve just four months in jail on weekends for the attack.

And-

Police said Moss punched his son in the face and then pushed him into the oven,  threatening “I’m going to burn you alive!” The boy begged to be let out of the  oven, which wasn’t turned on, and then the father forced him, still naked, out  the front door.

When Moss’ wife got home from work, she took her son to the hospital, where he was treated for second and third degree burns.

And-

Judge Collini responded, “This court feels compelled to temper justice with understanding and compassion, for the victim.” He sentenced James Moss to four months of weekends in county jail, with five years of supervised probation. James Moss can’t be reunited with his family at this time but will continue supervised visits with his son.

Outside court, Moss’ 11 year old son was led away by his mother and a caseworker, wearing a dark baseball cap and
sunglasses.

When PIX 11 asked Moss’ defense attorney if the sentence was a slap on the wrist, he replied, “It’s absolutely not a slap on the wrist! The judge took into consideration the wishes of the victim.” As the judge pointed out, he–with his sentence–did not want to add to the trauma of a child who’s already been severely traumatized.

Raleigh dad charged after child wanders roadway 

Raleigh police say a 3-year-old girl is OK after she wandered out of her house and walked across four lanes of traffic while her father was home asleep.

Authorities say the girl was found several blocks from her home around 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Police charged the girl’s father, 27-year-old Aaron Harris Rush, with misdemeanor child abuse.

 

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Update: Grieving mother gets probation and community service

The grieving mother who was going to face 3 years in jail received probation and the possibility of a new trial:

Mother of boy killed by hit-run driver gets probation and community service

Nelson faced up to three years in jail on the charges, but Judge Kathryn
Tanksley instead gave her 12 months probation on each of two charges, vehicular
homicide and failure to use the crosswalk, but combined the two counts into a
year’s probation.

In addition, she was ordered to perform 40 hours of community service.

In an unusual move, Tanksley also offered Nelson a new trial, telling her
that if she is found innocent of the charges her record would be cleared.
Nelson’s lawyer David Savoy they would accept the judge’s offer.

As she left court, Nelson was clearly relieved that her sentence did not
involve jail time.

“I am walking out of here. I don’t think you could be more satisfied,” she
said.

The judge said she had received letters of support for Nelson from across the
country, and the online group Change.org claims to have delivered 125,000
signatures on a petition in support of Nelson and to demand a crosswalk at the
site of the accident.

And – by the way – a Google search turned up articles with mother/mom in the title in the majority of cases.