Tag Archive: Marissa Alexander

Your Home Is Your Prison

homeprisonFrom Truth Out/By Maya Schenwar

On January 27th, domestic violence survivor Marissa Alexander will walk out of Florida’s Duval County jail — but she won’t be free.

Alexander, whose case has gained some notoriety, endured three years of jail time and a year of house arrest while fighting off a prison sentence that would have seen her incarcerated for the rest of her life — all for firing a warning shot that injured no one to fend off her abusive husband. Like many black women before her, Alexander was framed as a perpetrator in a clear case of self-defense. In November, as her trial date drew close, Alexander accepted a plea deal that will likely give her credit for time served, requiring her to spend “just” 65 more days in jail. Media coverage of the development suggested that Alexander would soon have her “freedom,” that she would be “coming home.”

Many accounts of the plea deal, however, missed what Alexander will be coming home to: she’ll return to “home detention” — house arrest — for two years.

In other words, an electronic monitor, secured around her ankle at all times, will track her every movement. Alexander will also be paying $105 per week to the state in monitoring fees, as is the custom in Florida and more than a dozen other states.

Such a situation is certainly preferable to being caged in a prison cell. However, does Alexander’s release — and that of others in her shoes — mean freedom? In reality, an ever-growing number of cages are proliferating around us, even if they assume forms that look nothing like our standard idea of a cage.

As mass incarceration is falling out of fashion — it’s been denounced by figures across the political spectrum from Eric Holder to Newt Gingrich — a whole slate of “alternatives to incarceration” has arisen. From electronic monitoring and debilitating forms of probation to mandatory drug testing and the sort of “predictive policing” that turns communities of color into open-air prisons, these alternatives are regularly presented as necessary “reforms” for a broken system.

It’s worth remembering, however, that when the modern prison emerged in the late eighteenth century, it, too, was promoted as a “reform,” a positive replacement for corporal or capital punishment. Early prison reformers — many of them Quakers bent on repentance and redemption — suggested that cutting people off from the rest of the world would bring them closer to God. (The word “penitentiary” comes, of course, from “penitence.”)


Against Carceral Feminism

“Prison Blueprints.” Remeike Forbes / Jacobin

From Jacobin / By Victoria Law

Relying on state violence to curb domestic violence only ends up harming the most marginalized women.

Cherie Williams, a thirty-five-year-old African-American woman in the Bronx, just wanted to protect herself from her abusive boyfriend. So she called the cops. But although New York requires police to make an arrest when responding to domestic violence calls, the officers did not leave their car. When Williams demanded their badge numbers, the police handcuffed her, drove her to a deserted parking lot, and beat her, breaking her nose, spleen, and jaw. They then left her on the ground.

“They told me if they saw me on the street, that they would kill me,” Williams later testified.

The year was 1999. It was a half-decade after the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which deployed more police and introduced more punitive sentencing in an attempt to reduce domestic violence. Many of the feminists who had lobbied for the passage of VAWA remained silent about Williams and countless other women whose 911 calls resulted in more violence. Often white, well-heeled feminists, their legislative accomplishment did little to stem violence against less affluent, more marginalized women like Williams.

This carceral variant of feminism continues to be the predominant form. While its adherents would likely reject the descriptor, carceral feminism describes an approach that sees increased policing, prosecution, and imprisonment as the primary solution to violence against women.

This stance does not acknowledge that police are often purveyors of violence and that prisons are always sites of violence. Carceral feminism ignores the ways in which race, class, gender identity, and immigration status leave certain women more vulnerable to violence and that greater criminalization often places these same women at risk of state violence. (more…)

Freeing Marissa Alexander

Marissa_Sign_on_Restaurantby Victoria Law/, from Truthout

Three years ago, a single warning shot sent Marissa Alexander to prison. Last month, an appeals court overturned her conviction, ruling that the jury received flawed instructions on self-defense. Supporters are calling for the prosecutor to drop all charges rather than subject Alexander to a new trial.

As reported earlier on Truthout, Marissa Alexander, a mother of three and a survivor of abuse, had given birth to a baby girl in July 2010. The previous year, she had obtained a restraining order against her ex-husband Rico Gray. When she learned that she was pregnant, she amended it to remove the ban on contact while maintaining the rest of the restraining order.

On August 1, 2010, she and Gray were at home when Gray attacked her. “He assaulted me, shoving, strangling and holding me against my will, preventing me from fleeing all while I begged for him to leave,” Alexander recounted in an open letter to supporters.  This was not the first time that he had assaulted her. (more…)

On Self-Defense & Women of Color…

From US Prison Culture

I have not written about the Marissa Alexander case on this blog though I have been closely following the developments in her trial. Well on Friday, Ms. Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

For those who are unfamiliar with the case, here is a very brief summary. Marissa Alexander is an African-American mother of 3 who tried to protect herself from an abusive husband by firing a warning shot into the ceiling after he had beat her up again. There is of course much more to the case including the fact that her attorney tried to use the infamous “Stand Your Ground” law as her defense and was prohibited from doing so by the judge in the case. You can read much more about the case here.

This is another example of the system re-victimizing survivors of violence and speaks to what I wrote about on Monday with respect to the inadequacy of the efforts to actually support survivors of rape and domestic violence. This case brings to mind countless other stories of battered women and rape survivors who I have known over the years. But there is also something more… (more…)