Dear Dennis Watkins and Stanley Elkins,
I’m asking you to drop all charges against Bresha Meadows, a young domestic violence survivor who was only 14 when she killed her father after years of abuse. This case raises the question of what purpose our criminal justice system serves. If it’s to protect people on the outside from violence, then it makes no sense to prosecute Bresha, because she is not a threat to anyone. If it’s to dissuade people from committing acts of violence, then it makes no sense to incarcerate Bresha, because she acted in self defense, which is protected by the law and the prevailing ethics of our society. If the purpose is to rehabilitate people, then it makes no sense to put Bresha in an adult prison where she will either face abuse or be held in isolation, or to put her in a juvenile facility where she will miss out on the last few years of childhood, high school, and time with her family. Incarcerating Bresha benefits no one, and only functions to deprive her of freedom, healing, and the chance to be a normal teenager— free from the constant threat of violence for the first time in her life.
If you know the details of Bresha’s story, you know that she tried to escape her father’s violence in many ways before reaching the last resort of shooting him. She ran away twice, facing worse abuse and threats each time she was sent home. She went to the police and was told there was nothing that could be done. Bresha was not protected by her family, child protective services, the police, or any social service organization. It’s unjust to punish her for our society’s failures.
Black women and girls are the fastest growing population in prisons and jails in the United States. When a black woman defends herself from death at the hands of an abuser, she is treated like a criminal and told that her life is not worth protecting. From Marissa Alexander in Florida, to Cherelle Baldwin in Connecticut, to Cece McDonald in Minnesota, when black women choose to fight back instead of acquiescing to murder, they are separated from their families and sent to prison.
Bresha Meadows needs support, love, and care at this time. Above all, she needs to be with her family, to be able to finish high school, and to have access to services to heal from the trauma of years of terror at home. Think of a daughter, niece, or young woman you care about, and imagine what you want for her if she managed to survive years of abuse with no help from society or the state. Think about giving Bresha the ability to flourish that you would want for a member of your family.
Brooklyn, New York