Monday, March 24, 2014

America is awash with wing nuts...

I have a number of Facebook friends who are right wingers.  Lately, one of my friends has been posting rant after rant about liberals and left wing politics.  Personally, I consider myself a centrist.  I agree with some conservative politics and I also agree with some liberal politics.  But this guy keeps posting about his outrage about abortion and support for gun rights.  He also posts a lot of inflammatory stuff about Wendy Davis and her run for governor.

This was on my Facebook friend's wall yesterday…

I do actually like this guy.  He's funny and entertaining.  I don't agree with a lot of his views.  Actually, I do support gun rights, but I am very much pro-choice.  In fact, it really disturbs me to see how many religious nut jobs get involved in government and try to pass laws that make pregnant women wards of the government.

Take, for instance, Mississippi.  This morning, I read an interesting article about a woman in Mississippi who has spent the last seven years fighting for her freedom.  When Rennie Gibbs was fifteen years old, she got pregnant.  She also had a crack habit.  Her baby was born a month early and was stillborn.  The cause of death was originally attributed to the umbilical cord wrapped four times around her neck.  But then an autopsy was done and a pathologist found traces of a substance found in cocaine in the baby's body. So Rennie Gibbs was then accused of murder.

This case is getting a lot of attention because Gibbs is the first woman to be charged with murder due to something she did when she was pregnant.  While I certainly don't condone using illegal drugs while pregnant, it does frighten me that Gibbs might be tried for murder due to the loss of her baby.  There is no definitive evidence that her crack habit actually caused her baby's death.  Moreover, Mississippi has the highest rate of infant mortality in the country.  

I also don't see how incarcerating more people serves society.  All it does is warehouse people who might otherwise be productive.  And taxpayers are the ones who end up footing the bill in the large prison industry. 

Mississippi isn't the only one doing this crazy shit, either.  In Indiana, Bei Bei Shuai, a Chinese immigrant, took rat poison when her boyfriend abandoned her.  She was pregnant at the time.  Though she was rushed to the hospital and her life was saved, her baby died.  She ended up being jailed for 178 days.  The prosecution's case was harmed when it came out that the baby's brain bleeding might have been caused by a drug Shuai received while being treated for eating rat poison.  Shaui eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of criminal recklessness and was sentenced to time served.  Originally, she was charged with murder and feticide and could have spent many years in prison.

While I certainly understand the need to have prisons for people who are truly a threat to others, I also think that prisons have become big business.  In the United States, one out of every 100 people is locked up.  One out of every 32 people is on probation, parole, or in prison.  In order to keep such a system going, there has to be business behind it.  However, while prisons can serve a vital purpose for keeping society safe, they also perpetuate a vicious cycle of crime and poverty.  Those who go to prison have a harder time being productive because they are saddled with a criminal record.  They leave their children to serve their time, depriving them of their caregivers.  And they cost society money because taxpayers have to pay to keep the prisons going.

It seems to me that the women I highlighted in this article probably needed assistance more than they needed to go to prison.  One has to wonder why Rennie Gibbs smoked crack as a 15 year old.  Why do most people use drugs?  For a lot of them, it's a means of coping.  And what drove Bei Bei Shuai to attempt suicide?  If she hadn't been pregnant, would she have been jailed for trying to kill herself?  It's true that attempting suicide is illegal, but people who try to kill themselves usually end up in a hospital, not prison.  I'm not saying what these women did was right, but I do think that locking them and others like them in a prison cell isn't going to help them or society.  Moreover, it also sets a scary precedent for extreme laws that might put even more women in jail for losing their babies while pregnant.  It's a very slippery slope.

Anyway, the more I read about these kinds of cases, the more I worry that the United States is backsliding and looking more and more like a theocracy.  It makes me want to move to Europe even more than I might otherwise.


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