First, an update on my post yesterday regarding Walter Scott's slaying in South Carolina. The Marshall Project adds another layer to the tragedy, suggesting Scott was purportedly running because he had been arrested several times for not paying child support. One in eight people languishing in South Carolina jails is in for contempt/non-payment of child support.
Debtor's prisons, in other words.
For Scott, the fear that he could end up in jail for owing child support may have been more real, in those few seconds, than the abstract possibility of another police-involved shooting. He had been arrested multiple times in the past on contempt-of-court charges stemming from child-support obligations he had missed, and he knew all too well the criminal repercussions he was facing: arrest; a few rushed minutes in court, at best, and without the presumption of innocence (because it would be a civil proceeding); jail time; and another mark against him on his permanent record.And the stupidity behind arresting people (mostly poor men) for non-payment goes without saying. How is a person supposed to work and earn money to make said payments if he's in jail? He isn't. The jail system becomes another defacto form of social sanitation by which we scrub society clean of its undesirables. At least back in Dickens' day, debtors could work while in the hoosegow and pay off their debts.
In South Carolina, at least one in eight people in jail are there on contempt-of-court charges related to late or unpaid child-support orders. Nationally, as many as 50,000 parents may be in jail on those charges, though the exact number is uncertain, mainly because "contempt of court" is a general charge that does not only apply to child support cases. The best available data suggest that a majority of these jailed parents are black fathers.
In this Quartz article (via Atlantic), the desperate attempt by states to keep executions alive, by authorizing new and fun alternative methods to lethal injection, is documented, as well as in-depth history regarding how technology has allowed executions to become increasingly hidden from the public (something we spend weeks discussing in 3150).
From Utah's bringing back the firing squad (which it just scrapped a few years ago as an alternative method), to Tennessee and electric chair, states are getting desperate and planning what to do when lethal injection drugs either run out or it's declared unconstitutional by SCOTUS.
Of course, to the pro-dp types, blood lust ain't a big thang...it's just a thang. Guilty as Hell, etc.
And finally, revisiting mandatory LWOP sentences for juveniles, three years after Miller v. Alabama:
At 14, in 1990, he was out with two gang members when they robbed a rival drug house and shot the occupants, leaving two dead. Now 38, he has spent the last 24 years in prison on a mandatory sentence of life without parole.But his future will be reconsidered in a new sentencing hearing here on Monday. It is one of the first such proceedings in Illinois to result from the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Miller v. Alabama that juvenile murderers should not be subject to mandatory life without parole.
With some states applying it retroactively and some states not, you create a situation where retroactivity in sentencing, an issue the court generally shies away from, becomes an bone of contention they nonetheless have to revisit. And good on them for doing so.In the 2012 ruling, the Supreme Court did not say life terms were never appropriate. But, building on earlier rulings that “children are different,” and citing research on brain development, the court said sentencing must take account of mitigating factors like the offender’s background and age, and consider the potential for change.Mr. Davis was one of about 2,500 prisoners across the country at the time who were serving life without parole for juvenile murders, most of them as a result of mandatory sentences that gave judges no leeway, according to the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, an advocacy group.The 2012 decision did not say whether the new rules should apply retroactively, to cases long closed. Since then, state and lower federal courts have disagreed, creating drastic differences for prisoners depending on where they live.Ten states, including Illinois, are applying the standard to pre-2012 cases and have started the process of resentencing. Four states — Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, with about 1,130 prisoners who could be affected — have declined to make the ruling retroactive.The Supreme Court is expected to clarify the issue next fall, when it hears the appeal of a convict in Louisiana.
Enjoy your spring Saturday.