Washington, DC—(ENEWSP)—July 30, 2015. Statement of NOW President Terry O’Neill:
What can be said about the state of our criminal justice system when, in the past two weeks alone, five women of color have been found dead inside correctional facilities?
Raynetta Turner, 43 years old. Arrested in Mt. Vernon, NY for shoplifting. Found dead in her cell within 48 hours after being arrested.
Kindra Chapman, 18 years old. Arrested in Homewood, AL for stealing a cell phone. Committed suicide within 24-48 hours after being locked up.
Joyce Curnell, 50 years old. Arrested in North Charleston, SC on a bench warrant for shoplifting. Found dead in her cell within 24-48 hours of being locked up.
Ralkina Jones, 44 years old. Arrested in Cleveland, OH for assaulting her ex-husband and his car with a tire iron. Found dead in her cell 2 days after her arrest.
Sandra Bland, 28 years old. Pulled over in Waller County, TX for making a lane change without signaling. Found dead in her cell 3 days later.
Our criminal justice system is in crisis. Police officers are seemingly trained as if they are a military occupying force and believe that Black and brown people are all presumptively dangerous insurgents. They are also, seemingly, trained to believe that their personal safety is threatened whenever a Black or brown person fails to be utterly compliant and utterly submissive to an officer’s every command, however whimsical (like instructing Sandra Bland to put out her cigarette on pain of being tasered).
Once in custody, prisoners too often receive shockingly poor medical care — even though many prisoners, like Raynetta Turner, Ralkina Jones and Joyce Curnell have serious medical conditions.
NOW calls on the Department of Justice to conduct a thorough investigation into how five Black women can die while in custody in just a two-week span. NOW also calls on the Obama administration and on Congress to make a top priority of identifying and eliminating the systemic racism that pervades criminal justice in the U.S.
What we are facing is nothing short of an emergency – we need answers, we need action, and we need sustainable change.
Antiracist feminists of all colors know that, in the words of Dr. King, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” If we cannot trust the police to treat our Black and brown sisters and brothers with respect and fairness, how can we trust them at all?