I recently was interviewed by Dianne King on Channel 10’s “On the Go With AAUW” in Fairfax, Virginia. It is a half-hour interview about my book, Calla Lilies: A True Story of Four Sisters and Their Struggles to Survive Abuse, Addiction, and Poverty in America. The interview covers many social issues that we need to address in our society today including childhood physical and sexual abuse, lack of education, lack of health care, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse in order to cope, the injustices of the penal system, and poverty to name a few.
Just go to YouTube and put in Kay Corbett Calla Lilies.
The holidays can bring back painful memories to those who have been abused in childhood. Cynthia says in Calla Lilies: A True Story of Four Sisters and Their Struggle to Survive Abuse, Addiction, and Poverty in America, “The way I see it, I remember Christmases, but I don’t really want to remember them because they were never goods times.” Realizing this, I have always tried to provide a big Christmas for them. They each seem to equate love with someone giving them presents. I think it makes them feel that someone cares enough about them to spend their money on them.
But foster care memories are difficult and Christmas can bring back the isolation and loneliness they felt at such times.
Christmas can be depressing when you can’t afford to buy gifts for your loved ones. One Christmas my Calla Lily, Lisa says, “Thank you for the Christmas presents. I’m just sorry I couldn’t get you nothin’. Maybe one of these days I’ll be able to make it up to you.”
Sometimes Christmas can be upsetting–especially if someone breaks into your trailer and steals your new Christmas presents. One Christmas Teresa’s trailer is broken into and her TV and brand new VCR are stolen.
And lastly, Christmas is really depressing if you happen to be in jail or prison. Telephone calls are so expensive and visits can be few and far between. Sometimes the Calla Lilies are in jail for the most ridiculous reasons–not being able to pay a fine or not having the money to go to a required class. And then they can be in there just because of a public intoxication or driving without a license. Teresa was on probation and got arrested for a public intoxication after her boyfriend’s company Christmas party. This violated her probation and she was sent to jail for 10 months–TEN MONTHS! Do we really need to send people to jail for such minor infractions???
Tina did finally go to rehab for three weeks. I told them at the rehab the court sent her to that three weeks would not be enough to help her. It wasn’t. She relapsed and did not report when she was to be tested for drugs. Now there is a warrant out for her. I was so hoping that the rehab would miraculously help her, but when one has been so abused, a band aid doesn’t do much good. I am really worried about her.
Most people don’t realize that anyone can get on the Tuscaloosa Sheriff’s website and check to see if anyone is in jail or has a warrant for them. It even shows what their bond is and gives the charges against them, as well as a mug picture when they were arrested. I’m not sure if that should be allowed. It seems like a terrible invasion of one’s privacy, and the person may not even be guilty of the charges.
People are sent to rehab free if they are sent by the court. By that time, the short rehab stay doesn’t have much affect. If you could send people to rehab before they are ever arrested for anything, maybe the rehab would do some good. But rehab for an individual outside the court system costs the individual about $25,000 for a month–and that probably isn’t enough time to do any good. If you are sent to rehab after you are in the court system, you now probably have a felony on you that will follow you the rest of your life.
We need free rehabs for individuals to enter before they get involved in the penal system!
My Calla Lily, Tina, was in jail for four months waiting for a bed in rehab. A friend drove her to rehab about two hours from Tuscaloosa but they would not accept her because she did not have all her prescriptions and medications. The jail should have provided this for her to take to rehab. So she returned to Tuscaloosa and was fancy free for about three weeks. During that time she fell off the wagon but did go to a Detox Center there in Tuscaloosa and then they sent her to another rehab. She had a tantrum and left that rehab after about three days and returned to Tuscaloosa. Her sister, Teresa, got her back in the Detox Center in the Tuscaloosa area. I think Tina finally realized she was going to go to prison if she didn’t follow-through on the rehab. The court sent her to another rehab in a nearby state. She stayed for the three-week requirement in rehab and then caught a bus back to Tuscaloosa. I am very concerned that three weeks is just not enough time to meet her many needs. She is supposed to go to court soon with a $5000 fine to pay. Of course, she cannot pay this fine so she may end up back in jail to “sit it out.” We will see what happens next.
The court does seem to be more flexible than usual and to be giving Tina many chances to straighten up her act. We will see if the court continues to work with her when she goes to court. At this time she is homeless and living with different friends. Unfortunately, most of her friends do drugs, so I am very worried about her. Tina has a long history of physical and sexual abuse in childhood, and the aftermath has been devastating for her.
Tina is one of the four sisters in my book, Calla Lilies: A True Story of Four Sisters and Their Struggle to Survive Abuse, Addiction, and Poverty in America.
One of my Calla Lilies, Tina, was sexually abused from the time she was 7 until 14 years of age, when she reported the abuse and was removed from the foster home. She has had a difficult time with illegal drugs or legal drugs without a prescription for years. Tina has been under probation for using drugs and failed her urine test. So she was sent to jail for four months waiting for a rehab bed. When a bed became available, a friend took her to the rehab about three hours from Tuscaloosa; she was told she would have to go back to Tuscaloosa and get some prescriptions she needed before being admitted to rehab.
We have someone who has been locked up for four months suddenly out and about waiting to go to rehab. She went to the doctor and got her prescriptions, but meantime, she was admitted to the hospital for some serious stomach problems. She was admitted twice in about two weeks. She was supposed to go to rehab again last week, but the rehab was sending its staff to some training conference and couldn’t take her until Wednesday, October 15.
She has now been out of jail and waiting for rehab for three weeks. We in the family have all been worried that she would mess up, and I think she probably has because she did not go to rehab yesterday as she was supposed to. Now we will have to see what the court is going to do. Will they still allow her to go to rehab or will they revoke her probation and send her to prison? Her offenses have all been related to drug abuse.
One statistic I mention in the book is that victims of sexual abuse are 26 times more like to suffer from drug abuse than the average person. So now we wait to see what the penal system will do with her.
In the movie, Lethal Weapon 4, Chris Rock tells an alleged criminal, “You got the right to an attorney. If you can’t afford an attorney we’ll provide you with the dumbest fuckin’ lawyer on earth.”
They might not provide the alleged criminal with the dumbest lawyer, but they probably won’t provide any lawyer without charging the accused for his public defender. This is a new trend and most states at least have some kind of user fees, application fees or other fees. The public defenders mostly agree with this charge because they are so overworked and underpaid. And in fact, NPR, in All Things Considered with Robert Siegel on May 20, 2014 states that “they can eventually be charged the full cost of their representation”–and that can run thousands of dollars.
The court system is charging the accused (who most likely is in poverty) instead of paying the charge through state taxes. The government allocates very little money to public defenders. How then can a person get a fair trial? Shapiro states, “There’d been cuts in state and city funding for the entire criminal justice system.” So courts are turning more and more to these user fees that the accused cannot pay.
What happened to the Constitution? What happened to Chris Rock’s words, “If you can’t afford an attorney we’ll provide you the with dumbest fuckin’ lawyer on earth.” That’s not even true. The Supreme Court in 1963 ruled that indigent, criminal defendants have the right to a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you.
It is unbelievable the way we treat those in poverty.
Just wanted to share my good news with you. Calla Lilies: A True Story of Four Sisters and Their Struggle to Survive Abuse, Addiction, and Poverty in America has been chosen as the December, 2014 book-of-the-month for the National AAUW Adelante! Book Club. Many branches throughout the country have an Adelante! Book Club. Adelante! focuses on books about the social issues that need to be addressed in America.
NPR in ALL THINGS CONSIDERED with Audi Cornish, Robert Siegel and Joseph Shapiro has revealed much about the justice system. It is a debtors’ jail and prison for those in poverty. It is hard to believe but nowadays defendants have to pay for every aspect of their court appearance in many states–costs of their own trials and sentences, often including jail time. My stepdaughters, in Calla Lilies: A True Story of Four Sisters and Their Struggle to Survive Abuse, Addiction, and Poverty in America have endured the same injustices. In some states, the warrants for the arrest is even charged to the defendant. And now a new development. Defendants in poverty are having to pay for their public defender. Along with this are a number of other charges: 41 states allow a charge for room and board and in 44 states they can charge for a probation or parole office. My stepdaughters have often had to “sit it out in jail” to pay for their fines and court costs. Many poor people end up having to pay thousands of dollars for misdemeanor cases such as driving with a suspended license, failing to put a kid in a car seat, and public intoxication. I have one stepdaughter who spent a good deal of time paying off her fine AFTER her sentence for public intoxication. In the case of my stepdaughters, all were sexually molested as children in foster homes and I think instead of punishment for misdemeanors, the court should realize that these violations against them is causing their behavior. Where are the counsellors to help so many of these people who have deep-seated problems? How many of the people mentioned in the NPR article “As Court Fees Rise, the Poor Are Paying the Price” also have a background of abuse that needs to be addressed?
“The Nation” magazine published an article about the return of the debtors prisons in their April 14, 2014 issue written by Hannah Rappleye and Lisa Riordan Seville. It mentions so many injustices that I have mentioned in my book Calla Lilies: A True Story of Four Sisters and Their Struggle to Survive Abuse, Addiction, and Poverty in America. The article in “The Nation” was about the small town of Harpersville, Alabama where outside companies collect the fines for the county for abuses such as driving without a license, public intoxication, and other misdemeanors. It is a huge money-making opportunity for these companies and adds additional costs to be paid. My stepdaughters live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and have very similar problems to cope with. However, in Tuscaloosa they deal directly with the court and not with an outside company. This makes things a little easier. These abuses, I must add, are common across the country. If a person in poverty can’t afford a license and ends up getting a ticket, one is then fined and has to pay court costs. If the person cannot pay all these costs (which can add up to hundreds of dollars) in Tuscaloosa and many other places, they can “sit it out in jail.” By “sitting it out in jail” they are paying off their fine at a certain amount per day–say $35, $50, $75 a day for example–depending on the county. This is nothing but a debtor’s jail for those in poverty who cannot afford to pay the fine and court costs. Usually additional classes are required after getting out of jail. These classes also cost money and often the person doesn’t attend because they don’t have the money for the classes or transportation to get there. Then a warrant is issued for them for not attending the classes, and they again have to go to court and pay a fine and court costs, and start over with their classes. There has to be a better way to deal with these misdemeanors! Even community service sounds like a more humane option. So often these folks end up losing their low-paying jobs because they have to go to court, attend classes, and serve time in jail.
It becomes a revolving door into the jails and out again, just to be picked up again. Often they have to make bond (if they can) and then proceed with the revolving door.
This is a terrible injustice of our penal system that pushes people further into poverty.