From the campaign to Free Shantonio Hunter:
And Help End the Criminalization of Survivors
Shantonio Hunter is a black mother and survivor of domestic violence from Nashville who is being unjustly prosecuted for the death of her three-year-old son Elijah because she was unable to control her abuser. She has been incarcerated for the past four years while awaiting trial for charges of felony murder, aggravated child abuse and child neglect. She has been incarcerated for the past four years while awaiting trial for charges of felony murder, aggravated child abuse and child neglect.
Community advocates are organizing and urging Nashville DA Glenn Funk to dismiss all charges against Shantonio so that she can begin to grieve, heal and rebuild her life. They welcome organizations to endorse the letter by contacting them at email@example.com.
For more background on the criminalization of survivors through “failure to protect” laws and charges, see: “Child Abuse by Omission: How American Law Holds Mothers Responsible for Their Partners’ Crimes,” “Battered, Bereaved, and Behind Bars,”and “Why is California Keeping Kelly Savage in Prison for a Crime She Didn’t Commit?”
How You Can Support the Effort to #FreeShantonio Now:
1. Love Letters to Shantonio: Send her a note of support and encouragement as she heads to trial next week.
5115 Harding Pl.
Nashville, TN 37211
2. Write the DA’s Office: Send an e-mail to Davidson County District Attorney General Glenn R. Funk (firstname.lastname@example.org) urging him to dismiss all charges against Shantonio because:
3. Court Support: Come to court next week, starting June 5 at 9 AM and show community support for Shantonio. We would especially like to have people there in support for her on Thursday, June 8 at 9 AM.
Justice A.A. Birch Building
408 2nd Ave. N.
Nashville, TN 37201
Court and parking directions, here.
Survivor advocates in Nashville, TN are urging the DA to drop charges against domestic violence survivor, Shantonio Hunter, who is being unjustly prosecuted for the death of her three-year-old son Elijah because she was unable to control her abuser. Their letter to the DA is below. Advocates welcome organizations to endorse this letter. Please contact them at email@example.com.
May 26, 2017
District Attorney General Glenn R. Funk
Washington Square, Suite 500
222 2 nd Avenue North
Nashville, TN 37201
Dear Mr. Funk,
As you well know, domestic violence is a persistent problem in Nashville, one which your office has committed to address by dedicating specialized assistant DA’s and a new division for domestic violence cases. And yet, Nashville continues to fail domestic violence victims because we continue to jail and prosecute them, as is the case for Shantonio Hunter who is currently being prosecuted for the actions of her abuser. Nashville can and must do better. For this reason, we the undersigned local, state and national organizations, urge you to dismiss all charges against Shantonio so that she can begin to grieve, heal and rebuild her life.
Incarcerated for the past four years while awaiting trial for charges of felony murder, aggravated child abuse and child neglect, Shantonio faces life in prison for “failing to protect” her three-year-old son Elijah, a charge that completely disregards the profound lack of control victims have while in abusive relationships. Domestic violence victims who try to protect their children from the abuse are often dangerously trapped in situations with no safe options. It is a well-documented fact that leaving the relationship is the most dangerous time for victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence is especially lethal for black women like Shantonio who
are about three times more likely to die at the hands of a current or ex-partner than victims of other racial backgrounds. Among black women killed by a partner, almost half were killed while in the process of leaving . And, though domestic violence and child abuse frequently overlap, victims like Shantonio are often held responsible for the abuse of their partner. Shantonio did not “fail to protect” her child, she was unable to control a person who used abusive power against her and her child.
Punishing Shantonio for essentially being a victim of domestic violence who was not only herself abused, but also tragically lost her child to this violence, is truly unconscionable. Prosecuting and incarcerating domestic violence victims puts courts and prisons in the same punitive role as their batterers, which compounds and prolongs victims’ experience of ongoing trauma and abuse. Criminalizing survivors only further isolates them from the community resources they desperately need. As Shantonio Hunter’s trial date quickly approaches, we urge you to take a step towards ending the criminalization of survivors by dismissing all charges against her. If Nashville is to be a city truly concerned with the safety of victims of domestic violence, then that concern and compassion must extend to all victims.
Participatory Defense Nashville and Free Hearts
Black Lives Matter Nashville
Democracy Nashville-Democratic Communities
Healthy and Free Tennessee
Memphis Feminist Collective
Nashville Feminist Collective
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Nashville
A.L. Costa Community Development (Union City, CA)
Black Women’s Center for Carceral Empowerment
California Coalition for Women Prisoners
The Change Project
Families for Justice as Healing
From Life to Life
Justice for Families
The Ladies of Hope Ministries (New York, NY)
Let’s Start Inc. (St. Louis, MO)
Mommie Activist and Sons
Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration (Chicago, IL)
Montgomery County Community Action Development Commission (Montgomery Co., PA)
New Beginnings Reentry Services, Inc. (Boston, MA)
The Real Costs of Prisons Project
Resource Information Help for the Disadvantaged and Disenfranchised
Sex Workers Allies Network
Stand Up Baltimore
Survived and Punished
Witness to Mass Incarceration
Women Who Never Give Up
Youth Justice Coalition
From the #FreeBresha Campaign:
May 8, 2017
15-year-old domestic violence survivor, Bresha Meadows, was offered a plea deal at a pretrial hearing this morning at the Trumbull County Juvenile Court in Ohio. While the details of the proposed deal have not been finalized, our understanding of the terms is that Bresha will be under state control for a total of 18 months. This includes 9 months she has already spent behind bars and an additional 9 months of incarceration in a “treatment facility.” Bresha’s attorney hopes Bresha will be transferred from juvenile detention to the treatment center by May 22nd at the latest. A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for May 22nd. Bresha’s record, as it relates to this case, would be sealed on her eighteenth birthday.
Without a plea deal, Bresha would face an aggravated murder charge for defending herself and her mother against the unrelenting abuse of her father, Jonathan Meadows. A conviction for aggravated murder could result in Bresha remaining incarcerated until she turns 21.
While the #FreeBresha campaign believes Bresha should have access to affordable healthcare services that will support her well-being, we contend that care should not be offered in the context of punishment. Based on Bresha’s earlier statements that her time in the treatment facility allowed her more access to her family, we are hopeful that the treatment facility will at least be an improvement from juvenile detention. However, we maintain that being forced to be at a facility is not freedom and it is not care. It is also unclear if Bresha’s family would be forced to pay for mental health services ordered by the court in the context of continued incarceration.
We also reject the manipulation of plea deals that force people to submit to imprisonment out of fear of longer sentences, regardless of their circumstances. Marissa Alexander, a black woman domestic violence survivor who was criminalized for self-defense, was bullied into taking a three-year plea deal with the threat of a 60 year sentence behind bars although she fully contended that she was innocent of the charges against her. Threats of prolonged sentences that force people into submitting to state confinement is a form of manipulative state violence that must end.
Finally, Bresha’s plea deal does nothing to transform the systemic failures that led to her imprisonment. Police and family services failed to support Bresha, essentially forcing her back into her violent home. How will these systems account for these failures, including offering restitution to Bresha Meadows and her family? What transformations will be secured to prevent the same failures from impacting the lives of other young people? How will we, as communities, account for our failure to protect children like Bresha, and ensure that fewer children are faced with desperate choices? We demand that all survivors have the right to defend their lives, especially Black girls and other youth of color who are targeted for punishment and criminalization. We also demand systemic change and accountability to truly support the lives of young people, including fully funded healthcare, affordable housing, and all of the social and economic resources it will take to truly reduce and transform all forms of gender violence.
We believe wholeheartedly that Bresha’s case would not have come this far without the mass mobilization of thousands of supporters in Warren, across the United States, and around the world. Young people are regularly punished and brutalized by the system behind closed doors, and Bresha’s case is a classic example of the ways our society punishes children for its own failures. Fortunately, Bresha’s case also provides an example of the powerful impact of mass action, including how to interrupt the normalization of violence against Black children and the violence of child incarceration. The Free Bresha campaign will continue to push for Bresha’s freedom until she is truly free. We ask all who support her to do the same. It is crucial that we continue to act in solidarity with Bresha and her family, and that we continue to raise the critical issues that her case illuminates. We must love and protect all children, especially those most vulnerable to violence, and we must defend our young people against the violence of incarceration.
From Asian Law Caucus:
Great news: Governor Brown granted parole to domestic violence survivor Ny Nourn last week. Ny entered prison with a sentence of Life Without Possibility of Parole (LWOP) for a murder committed by her abuser when she was only 18. LWOP is often called the "other death sentence" because death is the only way out of prison. Through sixteen years inside prison, Ny has persevered and fought for her freedom, becoming one of the first people sentenced to LWOP granted parole. You can read more about Ny's story here.
Sadly, Ny's fight for freedom continues. This week, instead of releasing her, Governor Brown will hand Ny over to ICE for deportation to Cambodia. Ny has never been to Cambodia. She was born in a refugee camp in Thailand as her mother fled genocide under the Khmer Rouge.
Ask Governor Brown to stand with immigrants, refugees, and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, not deport them. Also, ask that he support the CA Values Act, SB 54, to limit the state's involvement in Trump's mass deportation machine so that other domestic violence survivors are not deported. Upwards of 90% of people in women's prison are survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
TAKE ACTION NOW:
Call Governor Brown at (916) 445-2841 to #FreeNy:
Sample script: Hi, my name is _____, and I am calling to thank the Governor for supporting Ny Nourn's parole and to ask him to refuse to assist ICE in deporting Ny. Governor Brown had championed SB 261, the bill that gave Ny a chance at parole, and we ask that he extend the same second chance to immigrants like Ny. I'm also asking Governor Brown to support SB 54 so that other domestic violence survivors are not deported.
Call CDCR at (916) 324-7308 and Press 4 to #FreeNy:
Sample script: Hi, my name is ____, and I am calling to urge CDCR to refuse to assist ICE in deporting Ny Nourn (X28720) at CCWF. Ny was recently granted to parole and should be reunited with her community, not face deportation. Please deny the ICE detainer request.
Tweet at Governor Brown and CDCR:
.@JerryBrownGov support immigrants and DV survivors. Tell @CACorrections to not deport #FreeNy (X28720) and support #SB54 #CAValuesAct (click to tweet)
.@CACorrections reject ICE's detainer on Ny Nourn (X28720). She shld be reunited w/ her family, not deported. #FreeNy #SurvivedAndPunished (click to tweet)
As we resist the anti-Black racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, anti-trans, Islamophobic Trump regime determined to extend and deepen the vicious entanglements of violence, Survived and Punished (S&P) is called to press forward in our fearless support of survivors who live within the intersections of violence and criminalization.
Throughout this week, we are raising $10,000 to nourish our growing project. Send a “Happy Birthday” shoutout to Survived and Punished, and show your solidarity with criminalized and incarcerated survivors by donating to support one of our critical projects! bit.ly/sp_birthday
Help us keep building our momentum.
For the past year, S&P has worked tirelessly to realize our vision of freedom for incarcerated survivors. From policy research projects to prison peer training programs to freedom campaign support (including court watches, legal support, and letter-writing) to paradigm-shifting media and advocacy work, Survived and Punished has been on. the. move!
HELP PROVIDE IN-PERSON SUPPORT FOR INCARCERATED SURVIVORS:
Our prison visiting team provides in-person support and advocacy for survivors of domestic violence who are currently incarcerated. Incarcerated people, especially domestic violence survivors, have severely limited quality access to resources and support while inside. Our efforts to visit four to six times will transport our team nearly 5,000 miles over the next year to provide vital in-person support and resources to survivors, as well as advocacy on their behalf with any developments in their case. $3000 funds at least four visits per year. Every bit helps! Will you help fund our prison visits by donating now?
From the #FreeBresha campaign:
Dear #FreeBresha supporters,
Bresha Meadows’ next court hearing is rescheduled for May 8, 2017. Bresha is still incarcerated and facing serious charges for defending herself and her family against deadly abuse. Please continue to share the petition demanding her immediate release.
We are asking supporters to organize teach-ins to #FreeBresha during the week of April 10th-April 17th to raise awareness of the connections between sexual violence and criminalization.
Since April is sexual assault awareness month, we want to call attention to criminalization itself as sexual violence. People who are incarcerated are subjected to mandatory body searches. Their bodily integrity is disrespected by prison authorities. Many incarcerated people are also sexually assaulted in prisons, jails, detention centers, and mental health detention. By definition then, anyone who is incarcerated is subject to sexual violence. Bresha’s confinement is an additional form of abuse on top of the abuse she suffered at home. You can use the following poetry guides that include poems about sexual violence as part of your teach-ins: No Selves To Defend & Giving Name to the Nameless.
Please join us for a twitter power hour on April 17th at 10am PT/12pm CT/1pm ET.
Community members in Ohio now plan to rally to #FreeBresha outside Trumbull County Family Court on May 8th. Check www.freebresha.com for more details coming soon.
Thank you for your continued support to raise the profile on Bresha’s case. Please continue to demand her freedom and the freedom of incarcerated survivors of domestic and sexual violence nationwide.
From the Immigrant Youth Coalition:
Yazmin Liliana Elias Obregon (A: 076-373-569), a single mother of three U.S. citizen children, has been detained at West County Detention Center in Richmond, California for over a year. Yazmin came to the U.S. at the age of 4 and lived in Santa Rosa, California. When she was 14 years old, Yazmin entered an abusive relationship with a man who would become the father of her children. He abused her for nearly 10 years: he beat her, sexually abused her, and forced her to use drugs in an attempt to cause her to abort her pregnancies. Her ex-partner, now in Mexico, has continued to threaten Yazmin. If deported to Mexico, Yazmin fears persecution by her former partner.
Yazmin is currently detained by ICE. Prior to being detained, Yazmin was well underway to building a new life for herself and her three U.S. citizen children.
“Since my mom got detained, I have been feeling sad and it’s hard for me to focus on school. I really need for my mom to come back. Adults think I need medicine, counselors, social workers, but all I need right now is my mom.” – Yazmin’s youngest son, age 12
SIGN THE PETITION TO TELL THE SAN FRANCISCO ICE FIELD OFFICE and THE OFFICE OF CHIEF COUNSEL THAT YAZMIN DESERVES AN OPPORTUNITY TO PROVIDE A STABLE LIFE FOR HER THREE U.S. CITIZEN CHILDREN.
MORE ACTION STEPS:
The Abuse Excuse: Dismissing Domestic Violence and Its Effects in the Criminal Court System, by Victoria Law, Rewire
If a survivor is found guilty despite her claims of abuse, a compassionate judge may decide against sentencing her to prison. But even then, mandatory sentencing sometimes leaves no choice in the matter. This was the case for Ramona Brant, a domestic violence survivor convicted of conspiracy as part of her abusive boyfriend’s drug ring. At sentencing, her judge admitted, “I absolutely am shocked by the severity of the sentence” but, under mandatory sentencing laws, had no choice but to sentence her to life imprisonment. After 21 years in prison, Brant was granted clemency by President Barack Obama and now lives with her family in North Carolina. But Brant’s happier ending is an exception, not the rule, in how the legal system treats abuse survivors.
As reported previously in Rewire, no one knows how many abuse survivors are imprisoned for defending themselves against domestic violence. Similarly, no governmental agency tracks how many survivors are incarcerated for actions committed by their abusers.
The adversarial nature of the criminal justice system often doesn’t allow prosecutors to explore nuances such as the effects of domestic violence on a person’s ability to act. As reported previously in Rewire, the trauma resulting from domestic violence can result in difficulty making decisions, difficulties in concentration, inattentiveness, emotional numbness, memory lapses, and withdrawal—actions that might be perceived by police and prosecutors as failure to take necessary steps to stop their abusers from other harmful deeds. In addition, abuse can compel survivors to avoid situations they perceive as dangerous, which can include placing themselves in potentially harmful situations by reporting those crimes.
“The truth is, as double victims, we are unable to heal because now we begin to fight an even more powerful abuser—the system. Why? Because now we are expected to read the mind of another, know his choices and, the biggest shocker of them all, be able to stop him when we’ve never been able to before,” [Kelly Savage] reflected. “Let’s be honest—a domestic violence survivor cannot stop an abuser. Only an abuser can stop his or her behavior. If only we could get the criminal justice system to see the truth and reality of that.”"
Message from the Rasmea Defense Committee:
Rasmea Odeh received TWO standing ovations at the #InternationalWomensDay event at the Chicago Teachers Union hall last night. Watch the speech here, and it is also transcribed below.
In addition, our friends from Jewish Voice for Peace members Eli Massey and Lynn Pollack wrote pieces supporting and defending Rasmea from recent media attacks by contributors to the Chicago Tribune and other outlets. We thank JVP for its support.
Members of the Rasmea Defense Committee in NY are also responding to a New York Times piece, and we will share that with you when it is published.
Rasmea Defense Committee
March 9, 2017
Good evening everyone. My name is Rasmea Odeh, and along with my friends Barbara Ransby, Angela Davis, and five other organizers from the U.S. and around the world, I signed the article that called for the women’s strike on this day. I am a Palestinian, and I have dedicated my life to the liberation of women and of my people in general.
I want to talk tonight about my homeland of Palestine, and about my adopted homeland of the U.S., because there are clear similarities. Israel’s government today is more right wing than ever, and it continues to target my people with racist policies, political imprisonment, stealing of land, and killing. An Israeli soldier just recently received only 18 months for killing a Palestinian who was wounded and lying on the ground unarmed. He probably won’t even serve the entire sentence, because Palestinian lives are not worth much to the Israeli government.
In the U.S., we are living in a time that is worse than the few years after the September 11th attacks. The Muslim Ban tries to keep people from six Arab, African, or Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for many months. Other policies threaten undocumented Mexicans, Central Americans, and other immigrants with mass detention and deportation. Still other policies are criminalizing protests and making it easier for police to get away with committing crimes and killing Black people. An 18 year old Black young man was found hanging from a tree in Washington State in January, and African and South Asian men have also been recently murdered in hate crimes.
Israeli and U.S. policies make it easy to target our people, but Palestinians are resisting these attacks in Palestine, and here in the U.S., we are all resisting Trump’s attacks on immigrants, Black people, Arabs and Muslims, and others.
I want to end by telling you a little bit about my own story. Articles in the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, New York Post, and other newspapers are attacking me because of my participation in this day of action. They are calling me a terrorist because members of the Israeli military tortured and sexually assaulted me into a false confession almost 50 years ago.
On International Women’s Day in 2017, I am here to say that I am a survivor of sexual assault, and I testified to the United Nations about it in 1979. I have been convicted in the U.S. based on this torture evidence, but I won my appeal and am going to a re-trial on May 16th. Before that, please join us in Detroit on April 4th for a pre-trial hearing. Sign-up sheets for the trip are on our table in the back. This is a time of resistance of women and all people in Palestine, the U.S., and across the world. And I am resisting too!
March 8, 2017
Events, case & campaign updates, media, calls to action, and messages from survivors.
Anti-CIW Vigil & Rally