Black Children Were Jailed for a Crime That Doesn’t Exist. Almost Nothing Happened to the Adults in Charge.
Judge Donna Scott Davenport oversees a juvenile justice system in Rutherford County, Tennessee, with a staggering history of jailing children. She said kids must face consequences, which rarely seem to apply to her or the other adults in charge.
by Meribah Knight, Nashville Public Radio, and Ken Armstrong, ProPublica
Judge Les Hayes once sentenced a single mother to 496 days behind bars for failing to pay traffic tickets. The sentence was so stiff it exceeded the jail time Alabama allows for negligent homicide.
Marquita Johnson, who was locked up in April 2012, says the impact of her time in jail endures today. Johnson’s three children were cast into foster care while she was incarcerated. One daughter was molested, state records show. Another was physically abused.
“Judge Hayes took away my life and didn’t care how my children suffered,” said Johnson, now 36. “My girls will never be the same.”
Fellow inmates found her sentence hard to believe. “They had a nickname for me: The Woman with All the Days,” Johnson said. “That’s what they called me: The Woman with All the Days. There were people who had committed real crimes who got out before me.”
In the past dozen years, state and local judges have repeatedly escaped public accountability for misdeeds that have victimized thousands. Nine of 10 kept their jobs, a Reuters investigation found – including an Alabama judge who unlawfully jailed hundreds of poor people, many of them Black, over traffic fines.
Michael Berens And John Shiffman
Out of class, school became an environment of legal talk, almost all of it well-spoken. I reported to Annette each night my general wonder at how enormously articulate everybody seemed. And people were beginning to inject that new vocabulary into their conversation, speaking Legal to each other. It was strange at first to hear classmates saying in the hallways, “Quaere if that position can be supported?” or employing Legal in other contexts—“Let me add a caveat” to mean “Let me give you a warning.” People were self-conscious about how oratorical and windy they sounded. They uttered a little hiccup or a laugh when they tried out their Legal, but most of us persisted, practicing on each other.
It was Nicky Morris who most neatly summed up what we were all trying to do in using legalisms. In the last meeting of Civil Procedure that week, a woman answered a question Morris had posed. “The court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the person,” she said.
“I’m not sure I know what that means,” Morris told the woman, “but I’m still glad to hear you talking that way. After all,” he said, “you can’t be a duck until you learn to quack.”
Turow, Scott. One L
The draft version of the EARN IT Act, which has not yet been formally introduced but is reportedly being circulated by Graham and Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, bills itself as a way to fight the distribution of child sex abuse material (CSAM) on major platforms. But it does so by threatening Section 230, a core building block of the modern internet that shields tech platforms from liability for user-generated content (for example, it’s why Gizmodo is insulated from libel lawsuits stemming from what happens in the comments section). The EARN IT Act would threaten tech companies like Facebook, Google, and WhatApp’s Section 230 immunity regarding CSAM unless they comply with a set of so-called “best practices” determined by a 15-member commission.
Dell Cameron and Tom McKay, Gizmodo