Welcome home, Bresha.In this post, #FreeBresha organizers Colby Lenz and Mariame Kaba review how #FreeBresha successfully advocated for Bresha Meadows, an Ohio teen who was jailed after killing her father in self-defense. (Originally published at Teen Vogue)
Bresha was only 14 years old when she was charged with killing her father, who her mother and family said had inflicted years of abuse on them. Instead of receiving compassionate care, Bresha was criminalized for what many consider to have been self-defense. Prosecutors charged her with aggravated murder and sought to try her as an adult. She faced a potential life sentence in prison in Ohio. After instead pleading “true” to a charge of involuntary manslaughter, Bresha was sentenced to one year in a juvenile jail (with 10 months already served), six months of confinement in a mental health facility, and two years of probation once released.
Bresha’s attempts to escape domestic violence and seek help were blocked by multiple systemsthat ultimately failed to support her, including the police and Child Protective Services. Bresha’s story reveals the powerful pipeline between girls’ experiences of domestic and sexual violence and their forced entry into carceral systems.
Once arrested, black girls like Bresha face disproportionately high rates of prosecution and incarceration. Once incarcerated, Bresha joined the 84% of girls in the juvenile justice systemwho have experienced family violence prior to incarceration.
We are both part of #FreeBresha, the small organizing collective that brought Bresha’s case to national and international attention. In August 2016, we formed a volunteer, ad-hoc defense committee to demand her freedom. A defense committee or campaign is a grassroots effort to secure the freedom of a person targeted for criminalization, through community organizing, political pressure, community education, legal and media advocacy, and other strategies. As part of an effort to #FreeBresha, we organized calls to action and then coordinated and publicized widespread decentralized actions into an organizing force to be reckoned with. Supporters across the world demanded care and resources, not cages, for Bresha and all survivors of domestic and sexual violence. …