Today, I learned that a Judge in Mississippi denied a mother access to her child for fourteen months, commencing when the child was only four months old. The basis for the denial was the child’s mother’s unpaid warrants for misdemeanor offenses.
This all occurred when she and her four-month old child were passengers in a car that was pulled over by a law enforcement officer because the driver had allegedly committed a minor traffic violation. You see, somehow the officer discovered that she had unpaid warrants after pulling over the car. Considering that she was a passenger and had nothing to do with the minor traffic violation, it’s not quite clear why the officer even had the legal right to see her identification, let alone run it in his computer. I realize that I don’t practice criminal law and certainly don’t know the laws in Mississippi; however, this seems highly peculiar. Even if this is legal in Mississippi, I’d be interested in knowing why.
In any event, the officer did just that, detained her, and contacted the Department of Homeland Security to advise them that she had “abandoned” her four-month old infant.
Is it standard for law enforcement to contact the Department of Homeland Security to inform them that a parent has "abandoned" their child by virtue of their having been detained, especially for the reasons set forth above?
Would the mother have been denied access to her child, had the child not been with them in the car at the time they were stopped?
Nevertheless, within thirty minutes, Pearl Youth Court Judge John Shirley ordered that the grandmother receive custody of the baby and that the mother be denied any access unless and until all of her warrants had been paid.
I realize this is Mississippi, but in California a parent cannot be denied access to their child for non-payment of support. Meanwhile, in Mississippi, they can be denied access to their children by virtue of unpaid warrants for misdemeanor offenses.
The harm this causes the child, the mother, and their relationship is unimaginable.
According to the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, childhood trauma caused by abuse (physical, emotional, and sexual), neglect (physical and emotional), and household dysfunction (mental illness, incarcerated relative, mother treated violently, substance abuse, and divorce) is “linked to a variety of adult conditions, ranging from increased headaches to depression to heart disease.”
Moreover, we also know that childhood trauma contributes to future "behavioral issues", some of which lead to problems with the criminal "justice system."
As if that’s not all bad enough, “Children are harmed from the following things: (1) Powerlessness/Helplessness; (2) Lack of Predictability (stability and predictability are not the same thing); (3) Parental Conflict (a major cause of helplessness and unpredictability); (4) Poor Parenting (caused in part from parental conflict, which happens to be increased by the adversarial process); and (5) Poverty (which increases all of the other factors),” says Ruth Bettelheim, PhD.
With all of this information available, the “justice system” in Mississippi is such that a four-month old child is denied access to their parent unless and until their outstanding warrants have been paid. On top of everything else, how does the cost/benefit analysis play out?
By the way, although the Judge Shirely resigned from the Pearl Youth Court, which has since been closed, “he still serves as a district court judge for Rankin County, Mississippi” and he denies any wrongdoing.
To what degree is our so-called "justice system" contributing to a great many of the problems facing us today?