Mar 31 2014

Shanesha Taylor’s Been Released From Jail…

Update from Shanesha:
Anyone interested in contacting me directly can contact me at shataylor049@gmail.com. Please do not ask the details of my case I will not provide that info. I am happy to accept your prayers, well wishes or general inquiries.

Thank you again
Shanesha Taylor

Shanesha Taylor

Shanesha Taylor

And so it was, just before midnight, I learned Shanesha Taylor would be released from jail in just a couple of hours. I don’t know her personally but still feel as though I’ve been living with her over the past few days. So I stayed up in anticipation of getting an email or Facebook message announcing that she was safely at home with family. Like a child who is desperate to stay awake on Christmas eve to catch a glimpse of Santa, I fell asleep at some point with the lights still on. I was jolted into consciousness a couple of hours later and immediately checked for the news: Shanesha was released from Estrella Jail early this morning. She’s with family. It’s a wonderful way to kick off the week and I am really grateful to every single person who has donated money, signed the petition, called the County Attorney to have charges against her dropped and more. Special thanks to Amanda Bishop who started the online fundraiser for Shanesha and has been working tirelessly for days. Thank you all.

Shanesha and her family have a long road ahead of them in the criminal punishment system. She’ll have to secure good legal representation, she’ll have to figure out how to reunite with her children, she’ll have to stabilize her financial and housing situation. There’s a lot to do.

In the meantime, supporters and those who want to help can do the following:

1. Send letters, cards, checks etc… directly to Shanesha Taylor at:
PO Box 5988
Glendale, AZ 85312

2. Sign the following petition to Bill Montgomery who is the County Attorney for Maricopa County. Share the petition with everyone you know. Can we gather 10,000 signatures by Friday? Let’s try.

3. After you have signed the petition, directly EMAIL Bill Montgomery to ask that he DROP THE CHARGES against Ms. Taylor.

4. It’s always great when Prosecutors also receive phone calls. Please call the Maricopa County Attorney’s office to ask them to drop the charges against Shanesha Taylor. Be polite about it but suggest that resources would be better spent providing Ms. Taylor and her children with help over punishment. They have already suffered enough.

Maricopa County Attorney’s Office
Phone: (602) 506-3411
Hours: 8am – 5pm Mon-Fri

5. Are you on Facebook? Post a message on Bill Montgomery’s Facebook Page explaining why he should DROP THE CHARGES against Ms. Taylor.

6. Are you on Twitter? Tweet Bill Montgomery directly @marcoattorney and ask him to #DropTheCharges against #ShaneshaTaylor.

7. If you are on Twitter? Contribute your thoughts to the #ISUPPORTSHANESHA because… conversation. Yesterday evening, the conversation trended on Twitter thanks in large part to support from Suey Park.

Below you can see a visual representation of the activity on Twitter:
shaneshatwitter

8. Most importantly, Ms.Taylor and her family need funds. You can continue to donate to her Fundraiser and ask others to join you.

Mar 29 2014

“I Love Being A Mommy!!!” On Shanesha Taylor & Black Motherhood in the Age of Mass Incarceration

Every day in this country some women are coerced or forced by circumstances into doing things they don’t want to do. For many women, it is the only static condition of their ever changing lives: to regularly feel required to make hard choices among, at times, very poor options.” – Beth Richie, Compelled to Crime (1996).

You people are Ridiculous for supporting this woman!! What she did was almost kill her two babies!! How many other times has she done this. Ot is not okay to leave ur kids in a car regardless even in winter in Arizona. I can tell from ur post EXACTLY what kind of mothers u are…” – Tamara Carlstrom, Commenter on this blog (2014).

By now, you’ve likely seen the ubiquitous mug shot photo. Shanesha Taylor with tears streaming down her face and a look of fear & devastation in her eyes. This photograph introduced me to Shanesha’s case and galvanized me into action on Tuesday. I felt as though I had been punched in the gut. I know that I am not alone. Friends have expressed their feelings using similar words. One friend, however, confessed that she felt ‘uneasy’ when she saw the photo. As we talked, she admitted that she was ’embarrassed’ and she wondered if it was exploitative for a stranger’s mug shot, in particular a black woman’s, to be plastered on various media platforms across the country and maybe the world. After all, there is ‘no country’ for black women anywhere.

After the initial wave of sympathy that I felt for Shanesha, I got angry. A homeless mother was so desperate that she left her young children in a car while interviewing for a job. She was then arrested and incarcerated. How could jail be the solution for what was obviously (to my mind) a consequence of poverty and a lack of resources? Of course, I worried about the children’s safety but most of the time removing a child’s primary caregiver doesn’t improve their future outcomes. So I wanted to know more and to find a way to support Shanesha and her children.

I took to social media to find people local to the Scottsdale area who might be able to help her. I reached out to the young woman, Amanda Bishop, who had established an online fundraiser to benefit Shanesha and her family. I was interested in verifying the authenticity of the effort so that I could help to boost it. When I first started sharing the link to the fundraiser, people had contributed $2,200. Since that time, the case has garnered much more attention. The last time I checked, nearly $39,000 had been donated to help cover Shanesha’s bail, legal fees, and perhaps other expenses. Eventually, through Twitter, I connected with two people (one of whom lives in Arizona) who helped me gather more information about Shanesha. I heard from a member of her family a couple of days ago who provided a short update and thanked everyone for their outpouring of concern for Shanesha and her children. He was truly overwhelmed by the support. It was unexpected…

I mentioned earlier that there is ‘no country’ for black women anywhere. I have written about this in many different ways over the past few years. Because most black women expect to be maligned and demonized when we are not being erased, I immediately understood my friend’s trepidation. What would the mass media and all of us do to a homeless black mother who seemingly ‘neglected’ her children? What pernicious tropes would circulate within the public sphere and be internalized like lashes from a whip by all of us as black women? Because rest assured that only delusional black women maintain that we are seen as individuals rather than as members of a morally suspect and undesirable group in the U.S. We’ve always been treated as less than human.

Throughout history and still today, we exist as caricatures in the minds of too many. The popular representations of black women are reflected and shaped by our ideas about race, gender, sexuality, class, and more. We exist in the culture as hypersexual, unfeminine, angry, potentially criminal, depraved things. We are preternaturally ‘strong’ and feel no pain so the image of a black woman in tears in public must be jarring indeed. Society is generally inoculated against black women’s tears. We have been excluded from ideologies of domesticity and our families are pathologized. And for some of us, when these reductive lies about who we are seem to be reflected back to us (maybe through a mug shot photo), we become embarrassed and ashamed. Then we hate ourselves for it.

Read more »

Mar 28 2014

Image of the Day: Women Prisoners, 1860s

Female Convicts, Sing Sing Prison.- Pach, G. W. (Gustavus W.), 1845-1904 -- Photographer

Female Convicts, Sing Sing Prison, 1860s.- Pach, G. W. (Gustavus W.), 1845-1904 — Photographer

Mar 27 2014

Action Needed: How YOU Can Support Shanesha Taylor

Update (5:15 p.m. central time): I heard from Shanesha’s family that she might be released from jail either late tonight or tomorrow. I’ll let folks know once she is out. Please keep supporting her in the ways outlined below.

Update #2 (3/28/14 -2:30 p.m. central): Shanesha’s family has posted bail. However I am informed that she will not be released from jail until Monday (3/31). I have no idea why this is the case.

Shanesha Taylor

Shanesha Taylor

As I mentioned in a previous post, Shanesha Taylor is still in jail. She was arrested on March 20th so it’s been quite a few days.

From what I have gathered, she has a status hearing scheduled for March 27 at 8:30 am (TODAY). She seems to have been assigned a public defender. She has a preliminary hearing in Superior Court on Monday March 31st at 8:30 am. She has been charged with two felony counts of child abuse [ARS Code: 13-3623A2 (F3)].

I don’t have any direct connections to her family. All of the information that I have gathered, I’ve been able to access through online investigations by acquaintances and myself.

Many people have emailed me to ask what else they might do to support Shanesha. It always helps in such cases to increase public support and to gather our voices so that we are more powerful collectively. To that end, here are some suggestions for how we might proceed in support of Shanesha.

1. Sign the following petition to Bill Montgomery who is the County Attorney for Maricopa County. Share the petition with everyone you know. Can we gather 10,000 signatures by Saturday? Let’s try.

2. After you have signed the petition, directly EMAIL Bill Montgomery to ask that he DROP THE CHARGES against Ms. Taylor.

3. It’s always great when Prosecutors also receive phone calls. Please call the Maricopa County Attorney’s office to ask them to drop the charges against Shanesha Taylor. Be polite about it but suggest that resources would be better spent providing Ms. Taylor and her children with help over punishment. They have already suffered enough.

Maricopa County Attorney’s Office
Phone: (602) 506-3411
Hours: 8am – 5pm Mon-Fri

4. Are you on Facebook? Post a message on Bill Montgomery’s Facebook Page explaining why he should DROP THE CHARGES against Ms. Taylor.

5. Most importantly, Ms.Taylor and her family need funds. I was able to learn that her bond is $9,000. She’ll need that amount and MORE to get back on her feet. Donate to her Fundraiser and ask others to join you.

Mar 26 2014

Action Needed: Shanesha Taylor Needs Support Not Jail….

Update #3 (3/28/14 -2:30 p.m. central): Shanesha’s family has posted bail. However I am informed that she will not be released from jail until Monday (3/31). I have no idea why this is the case.

Shanesha Taylor (2014)

Shanesha Taylor (2014)

Yesterday, a twitter follower shared the following link describing Shanesha Taylor’s plight.

Ms. Taylor left her two children ages 2 and 6 months old in her car while she interviewed for a job. She told police that she didn’t have access to any childcare.

“She was upset. This is a sad situation all around. She said she was homeless. She needed the job. Obviously not getting the job. So it’s just a sad situation,” said Scottsdale Police Sergeant Mark Clark.

Shanesha was arrested and jailed for child abuse. She is facing two felony charges. Her children were put into the custody of child protective services.

As of now, through the excellent investigative work of Twitter user @lifeandmorelife, we know that Shanesha is still in jail. An email from Amanda Bishop who has organized a fundraising drive for Shanesha offers the following additional information:

Shanesha has been in jail over a week. She will be out within the next few days when her bail is done by her family. I do not know if the family would like me sharing any information regarding the jail she is at.

She has plans to get a specific lawyer when she is out. Her children are with family

.

Ms. Bishop also responded to a question about where the funds raised would be directed:

“All money from this fundraiser is deposited into a bank account of Shaneshas mother. The money is currently being used to bail her out. The money collected afterwards will be used for the care of herself and her children.”

Here is a local report where Ms. Bishop is quoted about the case here. In addition, I have been in regular email communication with Amanda. She took this on as a stranger to Shanesha and is currently being overwhelmed with emails. Please be considerate of her time. She is getting inundated with emails and questions.

There is currently no more information available. @lifeandmorelife and I would like to encourage everyone who wants to support Shanesha to please donate to the fundraiser for now. You can also continue to spread the word about this story through your networks. A newsreport about this story is here.

We have been in touch with some folks based in Arizona, are gathering more information, and will provide updates as they become available.

Update #1 (4:30 p.m. central)
Shanesha is still in jail at this point. I was able to learn that she has a hearing scheduled on Thursday at 8:30 am. Perhaps, she’ll be able to make bail at that point. Please keep donating to the fundraiser.

Update #2 (5:30 central, 3/27/14): HERE. I’ve been in touch with Shanesha’s family. They are profoundly grateful for all of the support.

.

As Andrew Tosh has said “poverty is a crime” [in more ways than one].

Mar 25 2014

“If You Take Our Clinics, We Will Die…”

Last month, Sheriff Tom Dart who oversees the Cook County Jail tweeted the following:

Earlier this month, he (or his office) tweeted:

Both of these tweets illustrate the fact that jails have become warehouses for the mentally ill.

To dramatize this reality while advocating for the reinstatement of community-based mental health clinics, members of the Chicago Mental Heath Movement organized a vigil at Cook County Jail yesterday. In 2012, Rahm Emanuel closed 6 of 12 Chicago public mental health clinics. The Mental Health Movement fought valiantly to prevent those closures and has been fighting ever since to re-open them.

My friend Sarah Jane Rhee documented the vigil and below are some of her photographs.

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (3/24/14)

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (3/24/14)

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (3/24/14)

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (3/24/14)

Read more »

Mar 23 2014

Action Needed: Please OPPOSE HB 4775 & its Amendment

If you are reading this and live in IL, please take the next logical step and actually FILE A WITNESS SLIP to OPPOSE HB 4775 (observing from the sidelines is not really helpful at this point, thanks).

HB 4775 – Being called a NO-BRAINER BILL:

This bill permits students to be “pushed out” from the traditional school setting for a mere arrest. A basic tenet of the U.S. justice system is to be considered innocent until proven guilty. In essence, it disregards due process protections any accused individual is guaranteed.

This violation may result in an expulsion lasting to 2 calendar years at the discretion of individual school administration.

Discretionary application of school discipline code has been found —and continues to be observed — to have disparate impact on youth of color.

Amends the School Code. Allows a school board to suspend or authorize the superintendent of the district or the principal, assistant principal, or dean of students of a school to suspend a student for a period not to exceed 10 school days or to expel a student for a definite period of time not to exceed 2 calendar years, as determined on a case-by-case basis, if the student has been charged with a violent felony and the charges are pending or if the student has been convicted of a violent felony. Defines “violent felony”. Effective immediately.

Please file a witness slips in OPPOSITION to HB 4775 HERE.

1. Under Section I, fill in your identification information.
2. Under Section II, fill out your organization if you are representing one or write “self” if you are representing yourself. You can also just fill out N/A.
3. In Section III, select the “Opponent” button (for BOTH the original bill and the amendment).
4. In Section IV, select “Record of Appearance Only.”
5. Agree to the ILGA Terms of Agreement
6. Select the “Create Slip” button.

Slips can be submitted until tomorrow, March 26 at 8:00 a.m.

Mar 23 2014

Action Needed: Mental Health Vigil at Cook County Jail

My friends at Southside Together Organizing for Power continue their tireless work through the Mental Health Movement Campaign. I can’t attend on Monday but I hope that many others will join with them at this vigil.

mentalhealthvigil

On a related note, I encourage everyone to read this post by Melanie Newport that raises what I think are some critical questions about how we center the mentally ill while advocating for jail reform. Also, I’ve written many times about the criminality & immorality of warehousing mentally ill people in jails and prisons.

Mar 23 2014

Changing the Frame to Mass Criminalization…

I appreciate this article by Debra Small for many reasons (and not primarily because I am quoted in it).

The main reason that I find it useful and insightful is that Small calls for a reframing & refocusing of the movement to end ‘mass incarceration’ toward one that seeks to end ‘mass criminalization.’ This is something that I have started to do myself particularly in the past couple of years. For example, I recently facilitated a workshop about the criminalization of black girls that sought to address the myriad ways that black girls are funneled through the criminal punishment system (not limited to their incarceration).
These two sections of Small’s article particularly resonated with me:

For me, the problem is in framing the issue as dismantling ‘mass incarceration.’ There’s no disputing that the U.S. incarceration rate is a human rights disaster. We have the highest incarceration rate in the world, except for the island nation of Seychelles. It has become an international embarrassment for the U.S., in much the same way that legal racial segregation was in the 1950s and ‘60s. African Americans learned the hard way that dismantling legal segregation and discrimination was not the same as dismantling racism and the institutions that support it — politically, socially and economically. Similarly, ending the ‘war on drugs’ will not significantly change the circumstances of communities that have been historically victimized by racially biased drug law enforcement. The frame of ending mass incarceration is great for educating people about the consequences of the war on drugs, but the frame we should use to guide policy reform is ending mass criminalization.

Mass incarceration is one outcome of the culture of criminalization. Criminalization includes the expansion of law enforcement and the surveillance state to a broad range of activities and settings: zero tolerance policies in schools that steer children into the criminal justice system; welfare policies that punish poor mothers and force them to work outside of the home; employment practices that require workers to compromise their basic civil liberties as a prerequisite for a job; immigration policies that stigmatize and humiliate people while making it difficult for them to access essential services like health care and housing. These and similar practices too numerous to list fall under the rubric of criminalization.

The whole article is worth your time and consideration. Read it here. When folks are discussing ‘reform,’ we don’t all mean the same thing. I’ll be writing more about this new era of ‘reform’ in the coming weeks and months.

Mar 21 2014

George Fujii and The Travesty of Japanese Internment

I spent a good deal of 2013 reading and educating myself about Japanese internment and incarceration. I still have a lot to learn. Today, I wanted to highlight George Fujii who I only recently learned about.

Photograph, George Fujii (on right) at Poston, Arizona, January 4, 1943 Central Photographic File of the War Relocation Authority National Archives, Records of the War Relocation Authority, Record Group 210 (National Archives Identifier 536627)

Photograph, George Fujii (on right)
at Poston, Arizona, January 4, 1943
Central Photographic File of the War Relocation Authority
National Archives, Records of the War Relocation Authority, Record Group 210 (National Archives Identifier 536627)

Mr. Fujii was interned along with thousands of other Japanese Americans after President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 in 1942.

George Fujii was interned at the Colorado River Relocation Center in Poston, Arizona. He learned that he and his fellow interned Japanese American men were required to register for selective service. In response, “Fujii posted handbills around the camp discouraging draft-age men from cooperating. He was tried for sedition.”

See a copy of the handbill that he posted at the camp here.