Fascism is the union of government with private business against the People.
"To The States, or any one of them, or to any city of The States: Resist much, Obey little; Once unquestioning obedience, at once fully enslaved; Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, ever afterward resumes its liberty." from "Caution" by Walt Whitman

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Criminalizing Poverty

2011-11-15 "Mississippi Woman Receives Three Year Prison Sentence For Feeding Her Family" by Ian Millhiser
Last week, a federal court in Mississippi sentenced a key figure in a $3 million mortgage fraud scheme to two and a half years in federal prison [http://mortgagefraudblog.com/perp-walk/item/15640-2-sentenced-for-mortgage-fraud]. Just a few days earlier, however, a Mississippi federal judge imposed a significantly harsher sentence on a woman who lied on her benefits applications in order to receive just $4,367 in food stamps to help feed her family [http://www.aclu.org/blog/criminal-law-reform/lying-eat]:
[begin excerpt]
[I]n moments of desperation, a lie can seem like the only option. Anita McLemore, a Mississippi mother of two, faced one of those unfortunate moments when filling out her application for food stamps — and now she’ll pay the price, by spending three years of her life behind bars in federal prison.
Thanks to a federal ban on food stamps for people with felony drug convictions, people like McLemore are out of luck when it comes to getting assistance with putting food on their tables. Though states can opt out of the ban, those that don’t (like Mississippi) deny food stamps even to individuals who have already served their sentences or overcome previous addictions. It’s true that McLemore’s past isn’t perfect — she has four felony drug convictions and one misdemeanor, which place her firmly in the category of people the federal government has declared unfit to receive public benefits. Hence, faced with the prospect of being unable to feed her family, McLemore lied on her application.
[end excerpt]
In a compassionate nation, the penalty for drug use is not starvation. In a just nation, the penalty for drug use is not that your two children must be hungry as well. There is no excuse for a federal drug policy that punishes anyone by taking away their ability to put food on the table — and that punishes them so severely for the crime of needing to eat.
And, unlike thousands of Wall Street bankers who helped plunge America’s economy into a catastrophic recession, McLemore actually paid back the $4,367 she received [http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20111112/NEWS/111120339/Woman-given-3-year-prison-term-lie].

2011-11-16 "Mississippi Believes Children Should Starve If Their Mother Did Drugs" by Robin Marty
One mother is serving three years in jail in Mississippi.  Her crime?  She lied on her application to get food assistance for her family.
Via Think Progress [http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2011/11/15/369180/mississippi-woman-receives-three-year-prison-sentence-for-feeding-her-family/], Anita McLemore is being put behind bars in federal prison for not admitting that she had previous felony drug convictions when she filed to try and get foodstamps for herself and her two children.   According to the American Civil Liberties Union [http://www.aclu.org/blog/criminal-law-reform/lying-eat], McLemore’s prior convictions made her ineligible for apply for assistance in the state — although not in all states — so when she left off her crimes order to receive a little over $4000 worth of food stamps, she was caught and punished.
In fact, the judge went out of his way to provide her with the harshest sentence possible, despite the fact that she paid back the money she took [http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20111112/NEWS/111120339/Woman-given-3-year-prison-term-lie].  “[U.S. District Judge Henry] Wingate bypassed sentencing McLemore under federal guidelines that suggested she receive two to eight months in prison and would have made her eligible for probation. He instead sentenced her under a federal statute that carries a maximum five years in prison.’The defendant’s criminal record is simply abominable,’ Wingate said. ‘She has been the beneficiary of government generosity in state court.’”
Regardless of McLemore’s background and history, how exactly are her two children supposed to eat if she cannot get assistance?  And, who will be buying their food when she is in jail beginning next year?

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