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.
This is a true story of my four stepdaughters from a previous marriage. Their stories include heart-rending accounts of physical and sexual abuse in foster homes and spousal abuse in marriage, the unwarranted loss of children, living on the inimum wage, and repeated ER visits resulting in pain-medication addictions.Their lively and impassioned personal conversations read like a novel but are absolutely true.
My website for the book is http://www.callaliliesatruestory.com. Please take a look. I am also on Amazon and Kindle.
This blog site will mostly be about the social issues we face in our country. Many of these issues relate to the Calla Lilies. Some of the discussions will cover other social issues–articles and information I read about each day.