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"morrison toya brown" Discussed on The Takeaway

The Takeaway

10:31 min | 2 years ago

"morrison toya brown" Discussed on The Takeaway

"How does a teenage trafficking victim end up facing more than five decades behind bars. That's the story of sin Toya Brown who's fifty one year sentence. Reignited the debate over the treatment of young women of color in our criminal Justice system. Brown was just sixteen when she shot and killed a forty three year old man who solicited her for sex. She was tried as an adult and Tennessee convicted of murder and sentenced to life behind bars in two thousand six her legal team challenge that sentences unconstitutional pointing to a twenty twelve supreme court ruling that protects most juvenile's from life sentences without parole, but last week Tennessee supreme court ruled that Brown won't be eligible for release until she served. Fifty one years. I spoke about Brown's case with Marsha Levick. The chief legal officer at juvenile Law Center, and Jerry Thomas the policy director with the campaign for youth Justice, it is deeply upsetting that it wasn't recognized that she was she was a teenager. She. Was underage and being solicited for sex, my organization, along with a number of organization truly believe there's no such thing as as a teenage prostitute. This is this is a young girl who should not have been solicited in this way. I do believe that she felt it was self defense. If you listen to her her describing the situation, she was she was in fear for her life. She believed that the man had. Well, she knew that he had many guns that he was a sharp shooter in the military and she believes that he was going to harm her that night. But unfortunately, that belief wasn't really taken into consideration. I feel to the extent that it that it should have been Marsha. I wanna bring you in here, you could give us a sense of the supreme court decision that could provide a backdrop here, and how Brown's legal team has been using that to argue for her release unsuccessfully. Sure the. State's supreme court in a series of decisions that began in two thousand five and then continue through two thousand sixteen essentially addressed sentencing for children who are being prosecuted and sentenced any adult criminal Justice system and relying on our eighth amendment span on cruel and unusual punishment. The supreme court not only ban the death penalty, but also banned life without parole sentences for children convicted of homicide in particular mandatory life sentences, and what has happened in the wake of those decisions is that we have seen a kind of I think toying with the decisions mandate in the sense that while courts are not in fact imposing life without parole sentences on many children across the country convicted of homicide, they are imposing virtual life sentences on those individuals, and by that, of course, it's exactly what we see sin Toya's case to impose a fifty year sentence on someone a forty. Year sentence or even higher sixty seventy year sentences on young people as they go into prison. We are dooming them if not necessarily to die in prison. We are creating a scenario where they will likely come out of prison on a stretcher or they will come out of prison with very little quality life experience left for them. Also want to bring up the issue that I think is is quite obvious in this conversation which is race and gender sin. Toya was a sixteen year old woman of color, and we know from federal data that women a girls of color are disciplined more harshly in school. For example. I'm wondering if either of you could give me a sense of how race plays into her case specifically, and the reason why I'm asking this is because I think about more recent rape cases, for example. Jeffrey Epstein, I think about Brock Turner. I think about Jacob Anderson. These are all white men who while are not being convicted of murder. Their sentencing for, you know, sex crimes has been quite light to nil. So how does race play into this? It's it's impossible to have any conversation about our Justice system in this country without confronting race and racism, and the the system is largely populated by men and women young women and young men of color, whether they are black or Brown, and that that legacy the legacy of racism slavery, white supremacy in this country has created a system that has I think frankly, become untenable on a constitutional democracy to tolerate the the degree to which we have ravaged. I think communities of color in this country. He her situation is compounded by her gender in the sense that I think the Justice system has always been paternalistic in the sense that we are frankly, less tolerant of behavior that girls and women engage in. Because we imagined that they should be better than that. Which is kind of twisted analysis that results often in less tolerance and greater punishment for conduct to engage in jury any any thoughts on that the racial disparities. Yes. So I would add again, what you when you mentioned that, you know, historically, there has this issue of black and Brown youth being disproportionately impacted by the system. That's absolutely what we see in the data. So in two thousand sixteen black youth were about fourteen percent of the population. But fifty one point nine percent of the youth who are transferred by juvenile court judges in our country. And so we see we see the disproportionality in the number of young people being transferred to the dot system. We also see it in the types of sentences that the young people receive. So according to the campaign for the pair sentencing of youth. They have a new report, and which they find that seventy two percent of the children. Sentenced to life without parole sentences since the Miller decision by the supreme court have been black children. So Marsha was absolutely correct. There isn't really a way to disentangle the the issue of black and Brown children being disproportionately negatively impacted by the adult criminal Justice system. Marcia does sin Toya have any legal recourse at this point? And more broadly. Are there other changes that our legal system needs to make to improve? So that we don't see Morrison Toya Brown's happening. With respect to her legal options right now, they're is a clemency petition that has been presented to the governor of Tennessee. And there has been quite a bit of public support that has been expressed through social media helping that that clemency petition will be favorably reviewed. I think that what her case represents to me when I think about both their own personal circumstances and other sin Toya's out. There is that we need a new punishment paradigm in this country, and we need a new paradigm for how we deal with offending by by young men and women and boys and girls, I think that the the notion that we have so little regard for the humanity for the the character the potential for growth and development of these young people that we are willing to lock them away in prison. For decades is not only inhumane, I think within our own principles and values. That I think we aspire to in our constitutional democracy. It is completely out of step with our international partners and peer countries around the world. There is no other country in the world that places children in prison for their lives. Condemned to die in prison. There are frankly few other countries in the world to that try children as adults in the way that we do seventy five thousand is a number that is down from two hundred thousand in the nineteen nineties, but it is a shocking number again to our international colleagues that we would place that many children into the adult criminal Justice system. And I think what's important is that to the sense that we imagine our Justice system is about both holding individuals accountable and promoting public safety. These are two legitimate goals of any Justice system. The the sentence imposed on Sinn Toya what she is confronting facing right now. Absent intervention is one that serves neither of those purposes. She is not a risk. She's no longer risk that time to protect the public through her incarceration has long since passed, and she's been held accountable. She's she's surely been held accountable having spent the number of years in prison that she has already spent there, and what what we hope and I think Torri and I working in this field. We are constantly confronted. Unfortunately with stories like in toys, and we are ever hopeful that that this will be the one this will be the one that will make us reevaluate that will make us sit up and say, no this can't be. But again, that's my hope here that the the specter of a sixteen year old girl facing fifty one years in prison of for a crime that was conducted in in the face of sex trafficking and a self defense situation. And even without those particular mitigating circumstances, we cannot allow our young people to face these kinds of. Sentences in this country. Marsha Levick is chief legal officer at juvenile Law Center. Thank you, Marcia. Thank you and to retire as policy director with the campaign for youth Justice. Thank you, Jerry. Thank you. 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