House Arrest No Deal

Marissa Alexander, the Florida woman who fired a gun into the air to ward off her abusive husband and who was arrested in spite of her claim that she was acting under the rubric of Florida’s “stand your ground laws” will be free today.

But not really.

Marissa has been in jail for three years. Florida prosecutor Angela Corey- the woman whose office could not and did not win the case against George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin, decided that Marissa should have the book thrown at her for firing the warning shot. Her bullet hit nobody; nobody was injured.

But Corey went for blood and Marissa was convicted of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Twenty years! She fired a warning shot! She was in fear for her life! Nobody was hurt!

Marissa entered into a plea deal and walks out of prison today. That sounds like the plea deal must have been good, right?

Wrong.

The deal includes Marissa being on house arrest for two years. That means that for two years she will basically be confined to her home. She will wear an ankle bracelet. Her every move will be monitored. According to an article by Maya Schenwar in “Truthout,” she will have to pay the state of Florida $105 per week to pay for monitoring fees. As she is on house arrest, she will lose basic rights of privacy that most of us take for granted. Writes Schenwar: “In prison, the loss of one’s civil liberties is glaringly apparent. The strip search, the cell sweep, and the surveillance of letters, phone calls, and visits are givens. For those whose homes have been “prisonized,” however, basic constitutional rights also crumble. Probationers and monitorees are subject to warrantless searches and drug tests; probation officers have ready access to their homes. In fact, though seldom thought of this way, the ankle monitor is essentially a constant, warrantless search.” (https://wordpress.com/post/8280873/new/?optin)

She might as well remain in jail.

When I read Schenwar’s article it hit me that our “justice system” is little more, in too many cases, a hustle for funding for police departments and prison systems. Our police department depend upon us stepping outside of the law – or maybe not – in order to fill their coffers. I was floored when, not long ago, I read on the back of a police car in front of me that it had been purchased with proceeds from drug arrests.

“We the people” are the primary funding sources for our men and women in blue.

But it’s not just the police departments and justice system that benefit from our missteps. According to Schenwar’s article, private, for-profit companies benefit as well. Schenwar writes: “As Marissa Alexander discovered in Florida, private companies often exact fees from the people they’re imprisoning. They average around $10-$15 per day — in addition to installation costs and fees imposed for drug tests or other “services.” Those unable to pay may be re-incarcerated in a cycle that harkens back to debtor’s prison.

If one gets a ticket for speeding, even if that person was not in fact speeding, he or she can get out of it – once a hefty fee is paid.

“We the people” are cash cows for the police.

But back to house arrest: Marissa Alexander is out of jail as of today, or will be, but she will be confined to her house for two years. Schenwar writes that by the end of her house arrest, Alexander will have paid over $16,000 for being free; she will have paid for her monitoring and surveillance.

While she is on house arrest, officers or parole officers have the right to enter her home at any time, without a warrant. They can do drug tests at any time, and, of course, the cost of those tests will fall on Marissa.

This all seems not only wrong but immoral. Yet, it is our justice system, unfettered and unregulated.

Marissa is out of jail, but she is not free. House arrest…is really no deal at all.

A candid observation …

That is not freedom.

Stand Your Ground Only If You’re White?

So, Marissa Alexander still faces 60 years in prison for shooting a warning shot into the air to ward off her abusive husband.

Meanwhile, while she is awaiting a new trial, George Zimmerman is walking free. Alexander faces three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Prosecutor Angela Corey, who failed to gain convictions in the Zimmerman case and, for all intents and purposes, in the case of Jordan Davis, is going for blood.

Both Alexander and Zimmerman  “stood their ground.” Zimmerman is free. Alexander may wind up in prison for a long, long time.

Where is the justice? Put another way, “where is justice, period, for black, brown and poor people?”

The historical narrative for black people being incarcerated, or, even worse, just being denied justice, is sad. One in three black males, reports say, can expect to be incarcerated in their lifetime. http://http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/04/racial-disparities-criminal-justice_n_4045144.html.

Black people are still objects, deserving of the bad things that come their way, seems to be the prevailing attitude. Marissa Alexander is not a frightened woman, a mother tired of being beaten by a crazed man. She is an object who shouldn’t have fired a gun. Prosecutor Corey doesn’t see her as a woman in distress, but, rather, an object which she can use to bolster her conviction record. Prosecutors are famous for going not for justice …but for convictions….because they are elected and need to be seen as “tough on crime.”

Their lack of willingness to seek justice for black, brown and poor people …and for women …is a crime in and of itself.

Hopefully, there will be a ground-swell of support for Marissa, although the justice system doesn’t often listen to or respect ground-swell when it comes to people accused of crimes. Nor does the justice system move quickly to admit mistakes it makes in order to free people who have been wrongly accused, convicted and incarcerated. People sit in prisons for years while the justice system lulls over new evidence that it very often disregards and deems insufficient.

Marissa Alexander’s attorneys sought to get her a new “stand your ground” hearing, based on revision of the controversial law which is used in at least 26 states. The judge ruled it didn’t prevail in her case. She, a black woman, who shot nobody, is facing up to 60 years in prison for firing a warning shot in the air to scare off her abusive husband. George Zimmerman, a white man (though some say he is not) is walking free, and Michael Dunn, who murdered Jordan Davis, would have been free had he not tried to kill three other black youths.

The man who shot Renisha McBride, Theodore Wafer, is on trial now. I am holding my breath, hoping to God he is convicted, but not all that optimistic about that hope becoming a reality.

It’s the dehumanization of black people, which began at the dawn of the creation of this country, which has aided prejudice, bigotry and been the basis and justification for the type of injustice black, brown and poor people have gotten in the courts.

Justice, it seems, is evasive if you don’t have the right skin color.

A candid observation …

 

 

When Silence is Evil

The entire country has been in an uproar –  rightfully so – about the killing of Trayvon Martin.  The rush to apply Florida’sstand your groundlaw by Florida authorities to explain and justify the actions of accused shooter George Zimmerman has enraged this nation, most especially the parents of young Martin, who want justice in the killing of their son. We are all watching to see how this case pans out.

But there was another case of an individual using the “stand your ground” law, this one a young African-American woman, who did not kill but fired a warning shot to get her physically abusive husband away from her. In this case, unlike the Martin case, it was fairly clear that the woman, Marissa Alexander, was truly defending herself against her husband, but in spite of that, she was accused and convicted of attempted murder. Circuit Court Judge James Daniel sentenced her to 20 years in prison.

Seriously?

Alexander had never been in any trouble; she had never been in jail…and she believed in the justice system. She reportedly did not take a plea bargain that would have had her spend just three years in prison because she said, “I didn’t believe I had done anything wrong.”

Not only did Alexander not actually shoot her husband, but she had filed charges of domestic abuse against him before. In other words, there was a record of his abuse toward her. Her life had been in danger before …and yet, her action of self-defense was ignored. Twenty years in prison, despite a law that is supposed to let people “stand their ground.”

Something is wrong here…including our silence about this case.

I know, from reading books like The New Jim Crow and False Justice that once the justice system makes a ruling, it is extremely difficult to get that decision reversed. But just because such action is difficult does not mean we who see injustice should be silent.

Is it just me, or does this case reek not only of racism but sexism as well? Why is it NOT okay for women who are in abusive relationships to defend themselves? I remember visiting a women’s prison and being amazed at how many women were in jail because they had finally had enough of their husbands beating them to a pulp. Why is it NOT okay for women to defend themselves against abusive husbands, but it is somehow all right for a white man to “defend” himself against even the suggestion of bodily harm by an African-American or Latino man?  In spite of the reports we have had that George Zimmerman was advised by police officers to leave Trayvon Martin alone, he ignored that order and a young, unarmed African-American youth is dead…and the “stand your ground” law is being touted as the law that probably “saved” Zimmerman’s life.

Seriously?

There is no justifiable reason for Marissa Alexander to be in jail for firing a warning shot against her abusive husband. If that is not self-defense, then I am at a loss as to define what self-defense is.  Marissa has an 11-year-old daughter who not only had to witness violence between her parents, but who now has to live her young life without her mother. She also has to grapple with trying to understand why “the law” did not find a way to give justice to her mother.

Marissa has recently been denied a new trial. So, she sits in prison for trying to protect herself.

Something is wrong here…not least of which is our silence about his unfair and unjust case. Our silence is as evil as is the law that put her in jail, and the laws which do little to protect women in cases of domestic abuse.

A candid observation …