Tuesday, May 20, 2014

NPR: Guilty and Charged

I am married to a public defender, so naturally I have sympathies for impoverished, accused criminals. Though, I don't give Ben credit for my sympathies. My parents did an absolutely wonderful job of teaching me empathy (and humility, obviously) for societies underdogs. As a child, anytime a horrible news story aired my mom immediately commented on how bad she felt for the accused's family. This gave me a sense that "it could happen to anyone." No one is 100% sure their child will never get drunk and cause an accident that kills innocent bystanders. No one is protected from having someone they love make devastating mistakes.

With that background, I've been following NPRs indepth coverage of Guilty and Charged. For over a year NPR has done some serious investigative journalism (something lacking in today's news media) and the findings are astounding. The personal stories are the most touching. Hearing Virginia Dickerson describe her situation in her own words was very powerful. Her story reminded me that in America, we do not have a system of rehabilitation. Even, when against all odds, an individual rehabilitates themselves, we have a system that forces convicted criminals down. Especially poor ones. Especially minorities.

Oh how I wish that would change. If you have a few spare minutes, browse through the Guilty and Charged series. You won't regret it.

Virginia Dickerson, Richland, Wash.

Photo of Virginia Dickerson
The ellipses signify soft crying. “I made the choice to break the law, but they don’t make it easier for anyone who is trying to rehabilitate themselves to get above water. And I'm doing everything that I can ... and I'm just ... I don't want to have to worry about going to jail. And that is my biggest fear. Everything else, I mean relapse isn't even a thought to me. This is the only thing that is hindering me."
  • Offense: Drug convictions.
  • Punishment: Been to jail three times to pay off fines.
  • About this case: Dickerson, 34, has been drug-free for more than three years. She’s working two restaurant jobs and still struggles to pay her fines, fees and interest to avoid going back to jail.
  • Court debt: Almost $10,000.

1 comment:

jennifer vasquez said...

Virginia dickerson is a perfect example of someone who is rehabilitated. She has a warm and kind heart. Not a day goes by that she doesnt forget where she came from or what she did...everyday she works her butt off to keep her bills and fines paid and on top of that she does alot...ALOT of service work. She is amazing and inspiring...

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