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More Jail Time Than the Man Who Killed Her Son? The Criminalization of Black Mothers

Women of color are being aggressively prosecuted for supposed transgressions they'd committed while trying to raise their children.

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“Prosecutors have discretion in terms of what they’re going to prosecute and they’re choosing to go after a lot of these so called child endangerment cases and a lot of them have disproportionate effects on single mothers, who are usually low income women of color.”

That Nelson faced more jail time than the man who killed her son led to a public outcry, and multiple online petitions created in the wake of her conviction called for leniency in her sentencing.

“To come after me so much harder than they did [Guy], I say it’s a slap in the face,” Nelson said, Georgia’s 11alive reported.

“Even though he had a history of it, I know no one gets up that day and says ‘I’m going to kill a 4-year-old,’ so I have to forgive that portion of it,” Nelson said in an appearance on the “Today” show.

“I don’t think there’s any reason that’s rational other than an emotional, fear-based reaction,” Chettiar said. “A lot of criminal justice happens in response to some kind of highly publicized event … or to a perceived public threat that isn’t necessarily there. People say, ‘Oh my god, all these bad mothers, let’s try to do something.’ “


Julianne Hing is co-editor of the ColorLines magazine blog, RaceWire, and editorial assistant of ColorLines magazine.

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