Five Links from a Criminal Justice System: Meeting Your Kidnappers, Keeping Mothers Out of Prison, Putting Cops in Schools, And Gullah Amends

Most of these links have a theme of “aftermath,” I guess.

“What Happened After My Kidnapping”:

Hello, my name is Brad Pearson. In March 2006, you were one of three people who kidnapped me in West Philadelphia.

I’m writing this letter not because I’m angry at you, or upset, or hurt. The opposite, actually. While the kidnapping and investigation were difficult for me, in the end they made me a stronger man.

I’m a magazine writer now, and I’ve always hoped to talk to you and Jerry and Mordi about that night, and what your lives have been like since. I’d either like to do that by letter or in person. I can travel to Pennsylvania to speak with you, if you’d allow me to. I also included my email address, if that’s easier for you.

Again, I’m not angry, and I’d really just like to talk.

Brad Pearson

Jerry’s response came first, less than a month later. Two pages, handwritten, single-spaced. All-caps block letters, except for the words “Sincerely, Jerry Price,” in cursive:

In your letter, you said ‘I don’t know if you remember.’ The truth is that I don’t think that I will ever be able to forget you. That day — your face plays over and over in my head constantly reminding me of the hurt, anger, sorrow and other feelings that I have caused you as well as the others.

Tyree soon sent a letter, too: “Being a dad in jail is really sad.”

I started looking at flights.

more–via Jeff Deeney iirc

“Dilemma Faced in ‘Orange Is the New Black’ All Too Real for Mothers Behind Bars”:

…In several states, parents who have experienced both incarceration and the threat of losing their children have organized to change this situation. Beginning in 2007, prison advocacy and monitoring group the Correctional Association of New York began working with legislators and advocates, including formerly incarcerated mothers, to pass the ASFA Expanded Discretion Bill, which allows foster care agencies not to file for termination of parental rights if the child is in foster care because the parent is or has previously been in prison or a residential drug treatment program. Mothers in prison also added their voices—the Long Termers Committee, consisting of women serving lengthy or life sentences, at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, put together an 80-page memorandum in support of the bill with handwritten testimonies by mothers, some of whom had experienced foster care and permanent separation from their own mothers as children. …

Now, in Massachusetts, formerly incarcerated women are taking a different approach—pushing to keep primary caregivers out of prison altogether. Andrea James is the director of Families for Justice as Healing, an organization of currently and formerly incarcerated women. She is also a mother who spent 18 months at the Federal Correction Institution, Danbury—the institution now made famous by Orange Is the New Black—and the force behind HB 1382, which would provide community-based alternatives to incarceration for primary caregivers. In Massachusetts, 66 to 75 percent of women behind bars are mothers to dependent children; most of these are single parents.

HB 1382, sponsored by Massachusetts House Rep. Russell E. Holmes (D-Boston), pushes the courts to determine whether a person who has been convicted of a non-violent offense is a primary caregiver of a child under 18. If that person is, the court will sentence that person to an alternative to incarceration “based on community rehabilitation, with a focus on parent-child unity and support.”

The bill, James said, grew out of a number of kitchen-table conversations with formerly incarcerated women and their families across the state. Recognizing that many people lack transportation or the money to access it, James and other members will visit formerly incarcerated women and their families in their homes.


“Missouri Town Dissolves Its Police Force”:

Starting next year, towns in St. Louis County will not be allowed to draw more than 12.5 percent of their revenue from traffic fines. (The previous cap was 30 percent.) Last week I noted that one tiny town, St. Ann, has responded by laying off 10 cops and rethinking the value of a notorious speed trap. Now comes word that another mini-municipality plans to eliminate its police force altogether.


In case you need one, here’s a really solid Vox “explainer” (ugh, what did the word “introduction” ever do to you and why can’t you forgive it?) on the school-to-prison pipeline:

When a student at Spring Valley High School, South Carolina captured a cellphone video of a police officer flipping over a student and her desk, then throwing the student across the room, the video quickly got national attention: people were alarmed that a police officer in a school would do that to a teenager who didn’t pose a threat.

But to others, it was less surprising that a police officer would behave so aggressively in a school: because school discipline and the criminal justice system have already been intertwined, in a phenomenon civil-rights advocates call the “school-to-prison pipeline.” Especially for older students, trouble at school can lead to their first contact with the criminal justice system. And in many cases, schools themselves are the ones pushing students into the juvenile justice system — often by having students arrested at school by School Resource Officers like the one in Spring Valley.

more–note the role of panic over school shootings btw. But this time I’m sure we’ll get the gun laws right! (Or, If we don’t have a ton of nails then what do we do with all these hammers?)

And here’s a brief, evocative look at whether traditional Gullah practices in South Carolina can be considered Afrocentric restorative justice. My three small thoughts: 1) This article uses “Eurocentric” where I would use “modern” or, let’s be real, even “liberal.” That makes me wonder whether its definition of “Afrocentric” is equally ahistorical.

2) Some of the “just law” traditional practices include public scolding and corporal punishment. The article doesn’t highlight that or even discuss it, which disappointed me since I know I tend to conflate “restorative justice” and nonviolence/pacifism, and I’d be interested in arguments against that conflation or discussions of what it leaves out.

3) I think now and then about amends–I kind of wrote a book about it!–and reading this article made me wonder whether we can see the 12-step concept of making amends as an attempt to live out restorative justice when the offender has a spiritual community, but the victim may not. This asymmetry poses some real problems, e.g making amends seem like a quest for “closure” or absolution imposed on a victim rather than an act of restoration; people you try to make amends to may find themselves isolated and unguided as they try to understand and cope with your actions, while you know you couldn’t have even attempted to make amends without support and guidance. I wonder if there are ways to do more to incorporate the victim’s community, or a shared community, into the Ninth Step.

Link via Jesse Walker.

Next time: lots of stuff on sentencing, “prison without punishment,” and whatever else arrests my attention. (…Sorry.)

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