From the age of eight, Tyquine Lee was deemed so mentally disabled that he received state assistance to help his mom, Takeisha Brown, afford his care. Before he was 10 years old, he was hospitalized on four separate occasions for reasons related to his mental illness.’At 18 years old, Tyquine was imprisoned. Takeisha resolved to stay in contact with her son throughout his incarceration and to fight for him as best she could.
Earlier this week, Strawberry Hampton finally won her release from prison, after years of targeted harassment, abuse, and discrimination because of her gender identity. Strawberry is a transgender woman who for the majority of her incarceration was housed in men’s prisons. While in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), she was subjected to extreme, unrelenting sexual violence and abuse by other prisoners, by guards, and by the administration charged with keeping her safe.
In a recent opinion piece, I challenged people of faith in Mississippi, evangelical Christians in particular, to reflect upon the disconnect between Biblical teachings regarding how prisoners should be treated and the failure of the vast majority of local faith communities to utter a single word to those in power regarding the inhumane conditions in Mississippi prisons. Why, one might ask, would a civil rights lawyer in Mississippi engage a group of people many see as conservative defenders of the status quo rather than as potential allies in the fight for criminal justice reform? Why bother?
Bobby Joe Pinkney, an African-American man, went on trial for his life in the rural town of Raymond, Mississippi in July 1985. He was charged with the murder of a white woman. The all-white jury convicted Mr. Pinkney and sentenced him to death.
If you care about the protection of civil rights and holding law enforcement accountable, you need to know about “Qualified Immunity”—a legal doctrine invented by the U.S. Supreme Court that prevents victims of police misconduct from holding officers accountable.
When a vulnerable person has been crushed by the machinery of the criminal justice system, where power has been exercised with callous indifference, where there is a wrong that needs to be made right and when, as sometimes happens, there is no other lawyer or firm willing and able to take the case—we hear a call to action.