Monday, March 31, 2014

Shanesha Taylor and Robert H. Richards IV. Two Mug-Shots, Two Stories.

(Contents include sexual violence towards children and child endangerment.)

You should begin by reading why Shanesha Taylor is in the news.  Then read the newsworthy story about Robert H. Richards IV.  The two cases come from different states, one is about abuse charges and the other one is about sentencing for child rape, and those differences obviously matter.

Likewise, many more people (including the police officer in the Taylor story) are going to feel empathy, pity and anger at the unfairness of it all on Taylor's behalf than on Richards' behalf,  and the final outcomes of the cases are going to differ, too.

Now think about the role of income and the influence it has in these two stories:  Taylor left her small children alone in a parked car on a hot day (with windows slightly opened) because she had a job interview and because she was homeless.  Her lack of income severely limited her choices.  Homeless people don't have child care arranged for job interviews.

The culturally approved answer to homelessness and lack of money is to try hard to get a job.  That means needing to turn up for job interviews, preferably not with a toddler and a baby in tow.  Because doing the latter will be interpreted as not having the organizational skills a reliable worker needs, right?  

What are the options for someone like Shanesha Taylor, then?  If she cannot find anyone to mind her children, leaving them in her car (which might be her home, after all) looks like a solution.  It is a dangerous solution, sure, and visible as one.

Richards, on the other hand, is not going to prison, because

Jurden gave Richards, who had no previous criminal record, an eight-year prison term, but suspended all the prison time for probation.
“Defendant will not fare well in Level 5 [prison] setting,” she wrote in her order.
“It’s an extremely rare circumstance that prison serves the inmate well,” said Delaware Public Defender Brendan J. O’Neill, whose office represents defendants who normally cannot afford a lawyer. “Prison is to punish, to segregate the offender from society, and the notion that prison serves people well hasn’t proven to be true in most circumstances.”
O’Neill explained that he has previously argued that case if a defendant was too ill or frail for prison, but he had never seen a judge cite it as a “reason not to send someone to jail.”
He added that the public might come to see Richards sentence as the result of  “how a person with great wealth may be treated by the system.”
According to court records Richards is listed at 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighing between 250 and 276 pounds.
Court records do not cite any physical illnesses or disabilities.
Richards, who is unemployed and supported by a trust fund, owns a 5,800-square-foot mansion in Greenville , Delaware, and also owns a home in the exclusive North Shores neighborhood near Rehoboth Beach.

The role income and the influence might have in this case looks pretty different from the previous case.

The cases also differ along the dimensions of race and gender, and the three dimensions:  socioeconomic class, gender and race, interact in complicated ways. Shanesha Taylor, a woman of color, is unlikely to benefit from the position inherited wealth provides, she is more likely to end up poor in this society and because she is a woman she is more likely to be the person responsible for her children's well-being and thus being blamed for possible child endangerment.