Give Birth and Go to Jail
I am virulently pro-choice. Reproductive freedom is one of the most basic and essential aspects in a free society. Of course, we don't really live in one of those. SLToday:
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) -- A St. Joseph woman who has three children says she was shocked when a judge ordered her not to have any more children out of wedlock while she is on probation for three years.
Mandy Nelson, 26, was given the unusual requirement by Buchanan County Circuit Judge Daniel Kellogg as part of her probation in a forgery case. Other conditions of her probation include community service hours, paying restitution and obtaining a GED or high school diploma.
"I was shocked," Nelson said. "I only have three kids. He made it seem like I was just having kids, kids, kids."
Nelson already was on probation for a prior forgery count. She is alleged to have tried to use $480 in counterfeit money at Commerce Bank in May 2005, according to a St. Joseph Police Department probable-cause statement.
Nelson mentioned in court that she was having financial difficulties because she had three children whose fathers weren't paying child support.
Kellogg said, "My feeling was that would be to help ensure she wouldn't have any more financial difficulties. It's not a moral judgment. It was just to address what were her legitimate concerns. It was more to give her support than to serve as punishment."
Nelson told the judge that she had undergone surgery to close her fallopian tubes after her third son was born two years ago.
But Kellogg replied, "Frankly, nothing is 100 percent." .
He compared his action to restitution, which he includes in probation orders even if it has already been paid.
Nelson's mother, Kelly Metcalf, was in the courtroom when the sentence was imposed.
"I was really surprised when he said that," Metcalf said. "I didn't think that was legal. Mandy has always taken care of her kids. It made it look like she was a welfare bum."
The judge's order angered Constance Monroe, who founded Women of Vision Ministries Inc. ofSt. Joseph. It's a non-profit organization that assists women who are either coming out of the correctional system or who are dealing with drug addiction or teen pregnancy.
"We're in what century?" asked Monroe. "That, to me, is a moral statement, not a judicial statement."
The state doesn't track special probation conditions, but "this is extremely rare," explained Brian Hauswirth, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Probation and Parole.
In a case such as Nelson's, an officer would report to the court only if she gave birth to a child out of wedlock, Hauswirth said. The pregnancy by itself wouldn't be in violation.
Laura Hibbs, a Probation and Parole's administrator, noted that defendants could choose a prison sentence rather than probation. Kellogg suspended Nelson's sentence, which would have been four years in the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Presiding Judge Patrick Robb said that the probation condition was uncommon in Buchanan County but that he'd ordered it several times during his career. He found the condition appropriate in some cases, such as for a defendant attending substance abuse programs.
He said he had never seen anyone's probation revoked because they gave birth.
Being poor and a criminal, while not exactly the best conditions, have little to do with one's right to reproduce. Frankly, the judge's tone is what pisses me off most here. Being a jurist doesn't make one a Patriarch.