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Friday, February 4, 2011

Texas Locking Up Kids

It Takes A Village to Incarcerate A Child:

September 2010

Of course the Blind Justice
Project (BJP) focuses on felony
convictions of current and former
Taylor County, Texas residents. The
program’s local affiliate is the Texas
State Community Council – Abilene
Division (TSCCAD), formerly the
Texas State Client Council – Abilene
Division. George Stokes, Sr. remains
TSCCAD president.
TSCCAD and BJP are bonded in
substantial part by demographics.

Taylor County Activists Vow To Tackle Problems Landing Many Area Youth Behind Bars

Big Sins and
Little Sins:
In Texas
“It’s time for Taylor
County, Texas to start
avoiding the avoidable
circumstances that
have too many of our
young people
incarcerated during
what should be their
most productive years”
The federal appellate court for Texas noted in
2002 that most of its “First Amendment
retaliation cases . . . involve an employment
or other contractual relationship between the
plaintiffs and the governmental officials.”
That is why Keenan v. Tejeda, 290 F3d 252

Most BJP cases so far involve males who were teenagers or in their mid-
twenties when sentenced to one, two, or three decades in prison for various
crimes. Some of the sentences seem harsh given the underlying crime(s) and / or
related circumstances. Others seem inappropriate because underlying convictions
are questionable per public policy, criminal law, constitutional rights, and / or
professional ethics.
“It’s time for Taylor County to start avoiding the avoidable circumstances
that have too many of our young people incarcerated during what should be their
most productive years” says George Stokes, Sr.
Stokes and a core group of TSCCAD members recently met to begin asking
and answering as an organization: “Why are so many of our youth facing criminal
prosecution?” and “Why are so many of them being convicted for serious
Such questions plague many communities. But it is “amazingly difficult to
pursue criminal justice reform in Taylor County, Texas” says Zena Crenshaw-
Logal, a national good government advocate helping to implement the BJP. She
adds, “many dignified calls for justice go unanswered, or worse, prompt arguable
retaliation in Taylor County.”
Recent developments in two cases outside Texas suggest criminal justice
systems are what we make them. The cases are those of former Illinois Governor
Rodney Blagovich and Georgia death-row inmate Troy Davis.
Rod R. Blagojevich was arrested on federal corruption charges on December 9,
2008, while serving as the 40th Governor of Illinois. He was accused of multiple
“pay to play” schemes, including attempts to essentially sell the U.S. Senate seat
vacated when former Senator Barack Obama became U.S. President.
The courts have been far too comfortable leaving room for doubt, error and bias.
There is no physical or scientific evidence linking Troy to the crime. In fact,
Troy had to rely on witnesses whom the judge didn't find credible, even though
these are the same witnesses on which his conviction hangs!

AIUSA considers Troy’s case as more proof that America’s death penalty
should be eliminated. Perhaps the most appealing of the group’s contentions is that
Troy should not be executed as long as his actual guilt can be reasonably doubted.
We should not begrudge Blago’s relative good fortune because of Troy Davis’
latest legal setback. However the two cases provide an interesting contrast of what
justice looks like in America.
On the one hand Blago was largely unscathed by expletive riddled tapes,
arguably confirming the quid pro quo that characterized his way of governing according
to numerous witnesses. On the other hand Troy Davis’s case is confirming the adage
that “those convicted stay convicted – almost no matter what.”
It certainly helped that Blago had and has balanced media attention and trial
lawyers intent on getting him exonerated. It certainly helps that Troy Davis has a core
of people, including his sister, intent on drawing international attention to his
predicament and determined that he not be hastily executed.
When we consider how the media, lawyers, judges, communities (local,
national, and international), friends, and relatives impact liberty for Blago and Troy, it
becomes clearer that it takes a proverbial village to incarcerate a child – adult children
and juveniles. Obviously the notion derives from that proverb contending it “takes a
village to raise a child.” It also harkens to the quest of TSCCAD to engage Taylor
County residents (including parents, law enforcement officers, attorneys, judges, public
officials, educators, spiritual leaders, etc.) in minimizing the number of youths they

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