Friday Morning Open Thread

August 29, 2014

What’s up?

I’ve read a lot of incredible analysis about the criminalization of poor mothers in the United States. The inconsistencies in outcome for the parents of the 9-year-old who killed her shooting instructor with an uzi and the mom of a 9-year-old who left her daughter in the park to go to work were mind-blowing in this article.

July 28, Associated Press:

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. – Plenty of working parents can relate to the dilemma Debra Harrell faced when her 9-year-old daughter asked to play unsupervised in a park this summer. How do you find the time and money for child care when school is out?

Harrell’s answer to that question got her arrested. She spent 17 days in jail, temporarily lost custody of her girl, thought she lost her job, and still faces 10 years in prison if convicted of felony child neglect.

The decision of this 46-year-old single mother and McDonald’s shift manager has been picked apart since police were called when Regina was spotted alone in the park.

August 27, Associated Press:

PHOENIX (AP) — “All right, full auto,” the firing-range instructor tells a 9-year-old girl. She braces the Uzi submachine gun and opens fire at a black-silhouette target. But the recoil wrenches the fully automatic weapon upward, and the instructor is shot in the head and killed.

The death has set off a powerful debate over youngsters and guns, with many people wondering what sort of parents would let a child handle an Uzi.

….And while the tragedy in Arizona has indeed “set off a powerful debate” about kids and guns, it hasn’t brought the parents of the girl at the gun range, tourists visiting from New Jersey, anything close to the kind of sociological scrutiny that fell upon Debra Harrell, an African-American single mom trying to make ends meet with her fast-food job.

Wow. If there was any doubt that America hates poor people, read this article. The Nation had even more in-depth analysis on the over-the-top punishments doled out to poor single mothers of color.

Nightmarish stories about about the criminalizing of motherhood have been making headlines of late. There was Shanesha Taylor, arrested on child abuse charges for leaving her kids in a car to go to a job interview; Debra Harrell, locked up for child abuse for letting her 9-year-old play at a nearby park while she worked her shift at McDonald’s; Mallory Loyola, the first woman to be charged under a new Tennessee law that makes it a crime to take drugs while pregnant; and Eileen Dinino, who died serving a jail sentence because she was too poor to pay legal fees from her kids’ truancy cases. Other countries provide social programs and income supports for poor single mothers; in the United States, we arrest them.

I hate to end on that note, but glad that some media outlets are covering this important story. The New York Times once estimated that it costs, on average, $60,000 a year to incarcerate someone in New York, and $168,000 a year for someone in the city. (!) I thought of this story and compared it to how much cheaper it would be for us to simply pay for childcare for these moms or allow them to stay home with their children…and better for the kids, too.

What do you all think?

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?