Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Darius Robinson - Killed Over Late Child Support

Darius Robinson - Died of a broken neck in detention
Well it's been just over one month that I last blogged about debtor's prisons and the efforts by legal advocates, social justice activists, community leaders and politicians to reduce the systematic mass incarceration of large numbers of poor Americans in local jails based simply on outstanding warrants for non-violent civil infractions.

Sadly those efforts came too late for 41-year old Darius Randell Robinson.

In what has tragically become an all too familiar story in these United States, a recently released autopsy report shows that Robinson died of a broken neck back on April 5th as a result of severe compression during a choke hold administered by guards while he was in the Caddo County Detention Center in Anadarko, OK.

Detention center officials originally released a statement claiming that Robinson was killed during an escape attempt; an excuse which has become "the dog ate my homework" of American prison officials.

But records show he actually died next to his cell, casting even more suspicion on the death of yet another American citizen incarcerated for not paying fines or penalties.

Caddo County Court House 
June 22nd article posted on Frontier.com  reports that Robinson was transferred to the detention center in Anadarko, OK, (a town with a population of about 7,000 an hour away from Oklahoma City) just a few days before his death after being picked up on outstanding warrants issued because of unpaid back child support.

I first read about this case in an article by Breanna Edwards posted on TheRoot.com earlier today.

I just shook my head when I read it, after all it was just yesterday that the results of an extensive three-month survey by the Pew Research Center showed persistent wide disparities in the quality of life for white and black Americans across a range of economic and educational opportunities.

Not surprisingly, the survey showed that African-Americans were far more likely to have experienced bias, or been treated unfairly by large institutions including the legal system.

Robinson's, just one of many cases including Sandra Bland who was jailed after being pulled over for an illegal lane change before dying under mysterious circumstances in a Texas jail, offers some concrete and troubling insight into why.

The Pew Research Center survey was aimed at analyzing why race relations in America have deteriorated and why large numbers of both blacks and whites have such pessimistic outlooks on race.

Eileen DeNino killed in a Pennsylvania prison
The large numbers of poor Americans being jailed over accumulated fines and fees stemming from the inability to pay civili penalties clearly has something to do with the gloomy snapshot of race in America  reported in the Pew research findings.

But this specifically is not just a black and white issue; it's a justice issue and a legal fairness issue.

n my blog on debtor's prisons in 21st century America back on May 10th I also highlighted the tragic cases of Rex Iverson who died in jail after failing to pay a $2,376.92 ambulance bill, and Eileen DeNino, a 55-year old mother of seven who was jailed over $2,000 in fines levied by the Reading, Pennsylvania school district because of truancy issues with her kids who was found dead in jail.

Iverson and DeNino were both white.

Should Darius Robinson have been paying his child support payments on time? Should Iverson and DeNino have paid the money they owed?

Yes, no question.

But to me, jailing these people over these relatively small amounts, and then loosing their lives as a result of being incarcerated is a far bigger crime - with far deeper implications than owing a few dollars.

This is the 21st century, and capital punishment should not be a penalty for not being able to pay your bills, regardless of who you are. Period.

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