Marriage, Minorities and Drug Sentencing

By Jean Trounstine

An interesting article in the NYTimes last week made me think about marriage and incarceration and the inevitable link to how we send people to prison for years due to the so-called “war on drugs.”

Charles Blow, NYTimes columnist, quoted public health expert Ernest Drucker’s well-known 2011 book, A Plague of Prisons with the following stats:

■ “The risk of divorce is high among men going to prison, reaching 50 percent within a few years after incarceration.”

■ “The marriage rate for men incarcerated in prisons and jails is lower than the American average. For blacks and Hispanics, it is lower still.”

■ “Unmarried couples in which the father has been incarcerated are 37 percent less likely to be married one year after the child’s birth than similar couples in which the father has never been incarcerated.”

And guess why so many black and Hispanic men are in prison? You got it, the so-called “drug war.” Or as Blow calls it “the disastrous drug war,” or “a war on marijuana waged primarily against young black men, even though they use the drug at nearly the same rate as whites.” With television and the media, “reefer” has been glamorized to “reefer madness,” and indeed the sentencing of reefer is madness.

Image courtesy jeantrounstine.com

The drug war has brutalized so many with lengthy sentences. How can these sentences not affect marriage and families? Take for example Stephanie Nodd who according to her page on Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM)’s website served 21years of a 30-year sentence in a federal prison in Florida for a crack cocaine conspiracy she had been involved in for just one month. FAMM was able to influence the Sentencing Commission to make new guidelines and Stephanie was released.

Read More

Love Behind Bars

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

Rachelle Spector and Amy Friedman have something in common. Both women fell in love and married men behind bars convicted of murder. Katie Couric’s interviews with Spector and Friedman aired July 9, 2012.

When Rachelle Short, an aspiring 23-year-old musician met Phil Spector she was immediately smitten with him. When she Googled Spector’s name, she discovered that he was suspected of murdering actress Lana Clarkson. The information did not deter the love-struck woman from continuing a relationship with Spector and marrying him after a brief courtship. Three years after the couple met, Spector was convicted of murdering his wife and sentenced to 19 years to life behind bars.  Rachelle Spector / Photo courtesy etonline.com

Ten years later, beautiful, youthful looking Mrs. Spector sits in front of Katie Couric and continues to defend her husband’s innocence. Even with Spector’s former girlfriend, singer Debra Harry’s disclosure that Spector allegedly threatened her with a gun, Rachelle still asserts her husband is “a good man.” She views Spector as a brilliant and funny man. Spector has charmed his wife into being content with a marriage that consists of 15-minute face to face visits holding hands. Conjugal encounters are not allowed. 

Read More