Archive for the ‘Criminal Injustice’ Category

The Worst Character in Breaking Bad (And I Don’t Mean Walt)   9 comments

It’s been a LONG time since I last blogged, and I honestly wasn’t sure if I was going to return to this blog, start a new one, or just quit blogging for good. Still don’t know, and while I could update you all (well, whoever is still here after all this time which, for all I know, is like twelve people) on the nightmare that has been my life during the last year (the Cliffs Notes version: illness, death, poverty, desperation, hopelessness, alienation, more death, and then still more death), I really don’t want to go into all that today.

So, on a lighter note: Breaking Bad. No, we still don’t have a TV but what are friends for, right?

I’ve been following the Breaking Bad threads on some of the mainstream feminist and progressive blogs and was once again reminded (not that I really needed a reminder) how incredibly different my perspective is from that of the predominantly middle class liberals who post and comment on these blogs. I realize people haven’t had my experiences, but I was nonetheless surprised to discover that Hank is actually a popular character. Hank the racist DEA guy who beats up suspects, violates people’s constitutional rights, and treats illegal drug users like subhuman garbage. That Hank.
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Poor Woman Gets Three Year Prison Sentence for Lying to Feed Children   Leave a comment

File this one under the “war on poor women” AND the “war on (certain people who use certain) drugs.”

Anita McLemore has been trying to beat her drug addiction for over fifteen years. It’s been a struggle, not made any easier by the four felony convictions she has amassed during that time. After all, finding a job that pays a living wage and escaping poverty is an enormous challenge even if you’re not a convicted felon.

Hungry and desperate, the Mississippi mother of two turned to the food stamp program for help. There was just one problem. The application included a question about prior felony drug convictions and a statement indicating that convicted drug felons are not eligible for food assistance and deserve to starve to death (okay, it didn’t really say that last part but it might as well have). So McLemore did what just about any mom with hungry kids and no other options would do in this situation. She lied.

For this lie, she has now been sentenced to three years in federal prison (via TGW), followed by three years of supervised release and a $250 fine. Desperate to stay out of prison and remain with her children, McLemore had managed to pay back every penny of the government benefits she received. It made no difference. In fact, U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate went out of his way to impose a sentence much harsher than the 2-8 months of incarceration followed by probation called for by federal guidelines.

The reason? Judge Wingate was disgusted by McLemore’s multiple drug convictions and outraged that the state courts had mostly allowed her to remain out of prison to take care of her children and seek treatment instead of locking her up like the hardened criminal she clearly is.
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The War on Drugs Is a War on Sexual Assault Survivors   6 comments

There are many good reasons to oppose U.S. drug policy and the abysmal failure that is our so-called war on drugs. As is often pointed out, the war on drugs isn’t really a war on drugs at all. It’s a war on people. People who use certain drugs, most of which were made illegal for political, not medical, reasons. But this post isn’t about the relative risks and dangers of illegal versus legal drugs or the history of the drug war. What I want to discuss is how our drug laws not only turn countless rape victims and survivors of childhood sexual abuse into criminals, but dramatically increase the likelihood that they will be raped again.

Sexual assault is one of the most violating experiences a person can endure. The trauma is exacerbated by a culture that routinely blames, shames, and disbelieves rape victims, and a justice system that denies all but a very small minority of rape survivors the opportunity to hold their attacker accountable. Studies show that at least 80% of rape victims suffer from chronic psychological and/or physical conditions as a result of being attacked. It’s not unusual for rape trauma, especially when compounded by a hostile or dismissive community reaction, to trigger suicidal ideation, resulting in a drastically increased suicide risk for rape survivors: 1300% higher than individuals not victimized by crime and 600% higher than victims of crimes other than rape.

Consequently it shouldn’t come as a surprise that drugs and alcohol are commonly used as a coping aid post rape. A study examining a random sample of sexual assault victims found that 44% took prescription drugs (mostly sedatives, tranquilizers, and antidepressants) to cope with the attack. How many self-medicate with alcohol or illegal drugs? We don’t know. We do know that close to 90% of women who are habitual heroin or cocaine users are also sexual assault survivors. Many have been raped more than once. And nearly two-thirds were children when they were first sexually assaulted.
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Rape and Consent: Shifting Burdens   27 comments

We’re facing an epidemic of rape in the United States, and the costs to individual victims and society as a whole are enormous. Based on national victimization surveys, somewhere between 1 in 5 and 1 in 3 women will become victims of an attempted or completed rape at least once in their lifetime (in my circle of friends and acquaintances that number is closer to 1 in 2). The annual victim costs are estimated at a staggering $127 billion (not including child sexual abuse). That’s substantially higher than any other crime. At least 80% of rape survivors suffer from chronic psychological and/or physical conditions as a result of being sexually assaulted. Rape survivors also face a significantly elevated suicide risk: 600% higher than victims of other crimes and 1300% higher than non crime victims. Additionally, the omnipresent threat of rape limits the freedom of ALL women and prevents us from participating in the world as equals.

Yet only a small percentage of rapes are reported and of those that are reported, few end in a conviction. This means that rapists are free to go on raping, creating more victims and destroying more lives.

The rape culture myths addressed in my last post have a lot to do with the low reporting and conviction rates for rape. So does this:

The law presumes women old enough to legally have sex to exist in a state of perpetual consent. Unless you are able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt–a very high standard–that you did not consent to sex, the law assumes that whatever dude came along and forced himself on you had the right to do so.
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When Rape Victims Lie   112 comments

No, this isn’t a post about how women are lying hussies out to ruin the lives of good men with wrongful rape accusations. If that’s what you were expecting, you’re definitely reading the wrong blog (actually, come to think of, stick around; you may learn something).

What I’m talking about is this: Living in a rape culture, women are acutely aware of the type of rapes–and the type of victims–that are taken seriously. And the type that aren’t. The “good” victim (the only kind that counts in the minds of many, many people) is attacked by someone she doesn’t know while dressed “modestly” and not under the influence of alcohol/drugs or engaged in “risky” behavior. She’s an upstanding citizen with no history of criminal activity, mental illness, or conduct outside the norms of mainstream society.

Thanks to prevailing rape mythology, many people also have very definite ideas about what happens before, during, and after a “real” rape. Real rape victims want no sexual contact of any kind with their attackers and make this crystal clear right from the start. When attacked, they don’t just say “No;” they scream, fight, yell for help, and/or try to escape. Ideally, the victim will duke it out with her attacker to such an extent that she is left with obvious physical injuries. After the rape, she will be visibly distraught and in tears, but this will not prevent her from reporting the attack right away. In the days and weeks following the assault, she will spend a lot of time in the shower and be too traumatized to appear to function normally.

Some rapes do indeed happen like that; most don’t. And the more a rape departs from this script, the harder it is for the victim to be believed and taken seriously. She didn’t fight or try to escape? She must’ve wanted it. She wasn’t crying or visibly upset right after the rape? She’s probably lying about being attacked. She was seen laughing and seemingly having a good time just days after being raped? It couldn’t have been that bad.
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Walking or Waiting While Poor   6 comments

So we’re sitting at the bus stop, waiting for the bus and minding our own business. Cop car rolls up and cop gets out. Walks over to us and the two other guys waiting at the bus stop and asks all of us for ID. Demands to know where we’re going and whether there are any warrants out for our arrest. Turns out none of us are wanted for anything, so after calling in our information, he gets back into his car and drives off. Business as usual.

We live in an area with virtually nonexistent public transportation–buses run just a few times a day–so only the poorest of the poor are without a vehicle of some sort around here. If you see someone walking by the side of the road (no sidewalks here either) or waiting for the bus, you pretty much know at least one of the following must be true:

  1. They are too old to drive.
  2. They have a disability that precludes driving a vehicle.
  3. They had their license suspended or revoked.
  4. They are very poor.

Since we do not appear to be #1 or #2, we must be #3 or #4, and you know what that means: likely CRIMINALS!
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Jury Deadlocks on Rape Charges Despite 911 Recording of Rape   6 comments

Last week the glorious US justice system brought us the acquittal of two NYC cops accused of raping an intoxicated woman they had escorted back to her apartment–this despite the fact that one of the cops admitted to climbing into bed with the nearly naked woman while his partner stood guard. This week we have a Pennsylvania jury failing to reach a verdict in the rape case of 31-year-old Jacquay Hall–this despite the fact that there’s a 911 recording of the assault in which the victim can be heard begging her attacker not to rape her while he tells her to “shut the fuck up” and threatens to “bust [her] up.” The same jury acquitted Hall of kidnapping, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, unlawful restraint and resisting arrest, but found him guilty of making terroristic threats and carrying a gun without a license.

According to the 18-year-old victim, Hall followed her down the street, pointed a gun at her and threatened to kill her if she didn’t come with him. Unbeknownst to him, she had a cell phone in her pocket and managed to dial 911. For the next 24 minutes, she kept her phone turned on while he grabbed her by the arm and led her to an abandoned parking garage, where he raped her. On the 911 tape, the victim can be heard trying to talk herself out of being raped:

“I’ll give you my phone number and we can hang out or something… I wish you would let me go.”

She also offers to give him her bank card and asks him, again and again, to leave her alone:

“Please don’t do anything to me, please. Please leave me alone. Please. No. Please don’t do anything to me.”

Hall is heard repeatedly telling the victim to “shut the fuck up” and threatening to “bust her up.”

At one point, she tells him:

“Please don’t do this. I don’t want to have sex.”

To which he responds:

“Too late. Shut the fuck up.”

Eventually she says:

“I’ll do anything you want. Please don’t hurt me, please.”

911 dispatchers were able to determine the victim’s general location based on the closest cell phone tower, but Hall had already raped her by the time police arrived. When Hall and the victim heard the sirens, she told him she had no idea why police were in the area, reminding him that she hadn’t screamed. She then told him she urgently needed to use the bathroom and when he allowed her to go, she ran toward the approaching cop cars.
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