Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

It’s bad that the US cannot effectively address its problems

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Juan Thompson has a disturbing story in The Intercept, disturbing in part because our social system and services are simply not working.

The short video is remarkably unsettling and difficult to watch. In the span of three short, wretched minutes, six teenage girls inside a Brooklyn McDonald’s viciously attack a smaller girl in a blue jacket, who gutsily fights back, as onlookers watch and cheer. During the brawl, one of the participants’ shirts is ripped off, exposing her purple bra. Despite this, the attacker, 16-year-old Aniah Ferguson, continues to beat the victim, 15-year-old Ariana Taylor, even after Taylor is apparently knocked unconscious. Ferguson stomps and kicks Taylor’s head multiple times before a merciful spectator carries a motionless Taylor to safety.

The video, posted on World Star Hip Hop, sparked a huge outcry. On March 12, three days after the fight, the New York Police Department arrested Ferguson and charged her with felonious gang assault and robbery. Four of the other assailants who appear in the video have been arrested since.

“I can’t defend what happened there,” Ferguson’s mother told me the weekend after her daughter’s arrest. “I don’t know what happened there, I mean I don’t know why.” We talked as we noshed over Dunkin’ Donuts at the Prospect-Lefferts Gardens apartment that Ferguson’s mother, grandmother, siblings, and 1-year-old daughter all share. That’s right: 16-year-old Ferguson has a young daughter who will now be the sole responsibility of Ferguson’s mother, who asked to remain anonymous. “It’s going to be hard. I know she’s going away for a while,” she said with embarrassment and sadness.

“Aniah always had her problems. I can’t lie. And I tried to get help but it didn’t happen,” her mother said. “She was in [anger management]  classes though when this happened.” Ferguson’s mother describes her daughter’s life as a continual struggle. She was raised by a single mother (as much as one can use the past tense for a girl only 16 years old) and was lashing out long before the high-profile attack at McDonald’s. In the past eight months alone, Ferguson has been arrested a half dozen times; the charges included stabbing a brother in the arm, punching her grandmother in the face, and attacking a pregnant woman, according to court records. Prosecutors claim she belongs to a street organization known as the Young Savages — an offshoot of the Chicago-born Folk Nation gang.

“I can’t say for sure, but they was fighting over something somebody said on Facebook or something,” a neighbor told me, with regard to the incident at McDonald’s. The Flatbush fight was reportedly the culmination of a dispute between Ferguson and Taylor that stretched back to at least January. When a friend of Ferguson’s texted her to say that Taylor was at McDonald’s that day, Ferguson rounded up her crew and, after initially going to the wrong McDonald’s, spotted Taylor at the 943 Flatbush Avenue location.

“The assault and the attack on this 15-year-old girl should be a wake up call internationally on what are we doing with our young people,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said on the day Aniah Ferguson was arrested, after he offered a $1,000 award — from his personal funds — for tips leading to the arrest of other suspects. Adams’ statement was unintentionally ironic. The punishment now faced by Ferguson for this brutal assault highlights our country’s grim and unrivaled record when it comes to locking up its youth, especially black youth, at a rate that further contributes to incidents like those at the Flatbush McDonald’s. 

Take the sentence Ferguson faces for gang assault and robbery: up to twenty five years behind bars. She will be charged as an adult even though she isn’t one. And the seeds for treating poor children like Ferguson as adults were planted long ago. Before her arrest, Ferguson attended Erasmus High School, which is part of the New York Public school system — whichemploys “over 5,000 school safety agents and 191 armed police officers, effectively making the school district the fifth largest police district in the country,” as Mariame Kaba and Erica R. Meiners recently pointed out atJacobin.

In all the outrage about her case, few are asking the most basic pragmatic questions. Even given Ferguson’s recent history of violence, is long term imprisonment the correct route to take? Should a troubled and emotionally unstable teen be thrust into a harsh prison environment, when research shows she will likely pick up worse criminal habits there? Will Ferguson’s incarceration solve any of her problems — or society’s — or will it exacerbate them? The United States already imprisons 30% of incarcerated women worldwide.

The four others arrested for their actions in the video include . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2015 at 7:09 pm

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