When Mercedes Smith (above) first came home from prison, she was able to sign up for Medicaid. Then she got a part-time job, which pushed her over Medicaid's low-income guidelines. Unable to afford insurance even after getting a second part-time job, Mercedes has gone without health care for the past three years. When she needs urgent care, she goes to the emergency room. Otherwise, health care is a luxury she can't afford.
Marissa Alexander is a mother of three, a Black woman, and a survivor of abuse. She is currently sitting in a Florida prison for firing a warning shot into the wall of her house to dissuade her abusive husband from attacking her. Last month, an appeals court overturned her conviction, ruling that the jury received flawed instructions on self-defense.
Marissa Alexander’s case illustrates how abuse survivors are often criminalized and further abused by the legal system.
In 1923, 17-year-old Carrie Buck was raped and impregnated. Her adoptive family, trying to avoid the public shame of having an unwed mother in their midst, had her committed to an institution for the "feeble minded." Because she was supposedly "feeble-minded" and the daughter of an unwed mother herself, the State of Virginia sought to sterilize her and, in 1927, the Supreme Court ruled in its favor.
One would think we've come a long way since 1927. But apparently we haven't.
When Sara Kruzan was seventeen, she was convicted of first-degree murder of a man who had subjected her to sexual abuse and forced prostitution. Earlier this month—18 years after her conviction—the parole board found Kruzan suitable for parole.
After spending more of her life inside prison than outside of it, Kruzan is going to face a tough time putting her life back together. If Louisiana Senator David Vitter has his way, she'll have yet another obstacle to surviving outside prison: a ban on ever receiving food stamps.