Open Letter to Prosecutors #22

Chicago Community Bond Fund Supports Bresha Meadows

September 19, 2016

Dear Dennis Watkins and Stanley Elkins:

Chicago Community Bond Fund joins domestic violence advocates, anti-violence groups, and defense organizations around the country in demanding that all charges against Bresha Meadows be dropped immediately. If charges are not dropped, Bresha should be released from pretrial detention immediately while her case continues. Chicago Community Bond Fund (“CCBF”) is a revolving community fund that posts bond for people incarcerated in Chicago, Illinois, and advocates against the use of monetary bond and pretrial detention.

As advocates of pretrial release, CCBF knows that Bresha risks being incarcerated for as long as several years awaiting trial. Pretrial detention is punishment without a conviction. Even in the event of eventual acquittal, those years of Bresha’s childhood will never be returned to her. While incarcerated, she will be unable to participate in her own defense. Instead of being supported by her family following this traumatic event, this 14 year old survivor of abuse will be caged, isolated, and further harmed. Bresha poses no risk of flight and no risk to the community. To support her healing and in the interests of justice, Bresha should be released on her own recognizance, without any secured bond, at her next court date on October 6, 2016.

Sadly, Bresha Meadows did not face a unique situation. More than 84% of girls in juvenile detention are survivors of family violence. Among them, 37% are incarcerated for “status offenses”—acts that are only criminalized for young people, such as curfew violations or running away. Before the events that led to this case, Bresha did try to run away from the violence she faced–twice, in fact. Caught between violence at home and a lack of supportive resources for families experiencing violence, Bresha had nowhere safe to go. The criminalization of women and girls for defending themselves against violence suggests that their lives are not worth defending. We are glad Bresha, her mother, and her siblings are alive today. Bresha must not be punished further for surviving.

Statistically, pretrial detention increases the likelihood that someone will be convicted, results in longer sentences, and increased the chance of recidivism. At a base level, pretrial detention denies the presumption of innocence and punishes the unconvicted. Pretrial detention harms young people especially, and particularly those who are already dealing with acute trauma resulting from years of abuse.

Finally, CCBF rejects any suggestion that Bresha is better off or safer for being incarcerated pretrial. This assumption demonstrates just how normalized the incarceration of Black youth has become in the public imagination. Black youth are 129% more likely to be arrested than white youth. Furthermore, 62% of youth tried as adults are Black, and in 34 states, being tried as an adult means that any future charge, no matter how minor, is automatically transferred to adult court. Once juveniles are captured by the criminal legal system, it becomes difficult for them to get free. Bresha Meadows deserves the chance to finally live a life free of violence and abuse, not to be punished further for still being alive.

Bresha has already been incarcerated for nearly two months. She has missed her first day of high school, and been separated from her mother and siblings during this time of mourning when emotional support is most needed. We urge you to do all you can to ensure Bresha’s release. Bresha has been denied a path to safety and freedom long enough. We urge you to stop punishing this young woman further for the abuse she and her family have already suffered and managed to survive. It’s time to release Bresha Meadows.

Signed,

Chicago Community Bond Fund
Chicago, IL

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