May 22, 2017
The #FreeBresha campaign is infuriated that 15-year-old domestic violence survivor, Bresha Meadows, has been forced by Ohio prosecutors to submit to a plea deal that would keep her in juvenile detention for a full year (which includes 10 months of time served) and an additional 6 months of incarceration in a “treatment facility.” Though an earlier version of the plea deal would have released Bresha to the “treatment facility” today, the final plea deal has increased Bresha’s time in juvenile detention for another two months. Prosecuting Bresha, including the pointless punitivity of adding time in juvenile detention, should be condemned by all who care about the well-being of children.
Bresha’s move from juvenile detention to the “treatment facility” is scheduled for July 30th. Once transferred, this facility has the power to determine whether they will confine Bresha beyond the 6 months stated in the plea deal, opening the door to further incarceration. Also, Bresha’s family will be forced to pay for the cost of Bresha’s “treatment” confinement, adding yet another economic burden to the family. As we have stated, we believe that true care cannot and should not be delivered in the context of punishment. The #FreeBresha campaign is in solidarity with Bresha Meadows and her family who have been forced to make hard choices to try to reduce further harm in a coercive context of violent prosecution and incarceration.
It is truly unconscionable that Bresha has been targeted by prosecutors for taking desperate action to survive domestic violence. Ohio prosecutors Dennis Watkins and Stanley Elkins’ insistence on punishing Bresha for self-defense demonstrates a disgraceful lack of accountability by the state of Ohio who repeatedly failed to protect Bresha and her family, causing this horrific situation. If a Black girl who is abused in her home does all the things adults tell children to do when faced with violence — tell an adult, report it to the police, trust family services — and, one by one, each system fails her, what exactly do prosecutors imagine she should do next? Bresha tried to run away from the violence, but police forced her to return home. There was nothing else left to do but be beaten and possibly killed or defend her life. Do these prosecutors believe that it would have been a better outcome if Bresha and her family lost their lives to her abusive father? Why must a child carry the burden of profound failure by police, prosecutors, family services, and other adults? When will Dennis Watkins and Stanley Elkins take responsibility for blaming a child for their failures?
Yesterday, we learned details of the abuse in Bresha’s home from her cousin, Ja’Von Meadows-Harris, who stayed in Bresha’s father’s home when he was a child. Ja’Von shared that he was also a constant target for physical violence, isolation, extreme control, and threats by her father. Ja’Von was only 12-years-old when he witnessed Bresha’s father repeatedly punch Bresha’s mother while Bresha was a baby in her mother’s arms. When Ja’Von tried to protect Bresha, he was also beaten and threatened. The pattern of terror in this home was real, it was relentless, and it was inescapable. We are so grateful to Ja’Von for sharing his story.
Finally, we want to emphasize that Bresha Meadows is just one girl of tens of thousands of girls in cages across the United States. Understanding the details of how Bresha has been treated is instructive of how the criminal punishment system is a destructive force against children, especially Black children. As we said in our May 8th statement, the #FreeBresha campaign will continue to push for Bresha’s freedom until she is truly free. We ask all who support her to do the same.