by Maria Lloyd
The black community is up in arms following a judge’s decision to sentence 18-year-old Tony Farmer, a high school basketball star in Ohio, to prison for three years for physically abusing his 18-year-old ex-girlfriend, Andrea Lane, in her apartment complex. Judge Pamela Barker attributes Farmer’s violent rage caught on camera and his threats to Lane following the court’s ‘no contact’ order to her reason for sending him to prison for three years.
While some people in the black community are praising the judge’s decision and saying she “let him off easy” with the three-year-sentence, other people in the black community are wishing the young man would’ve received some form of punishment that will better him (e.g. counseling, community service, strict probation, and a shorter prison sentence). There is no doubt that he deserves punishment. After watching the video of his vicious attack, it would be remiss of anyone to not agree that punishment is necessary, and it would also be remiss of anyone to not agree that he needs help. Here are two reasons why I believe his punishment is inadequate:
1. Prison doesn’t work.
America has failed at creating a justice system that truly strives to rehabilitate criminals. Throwing someone in prison without seeking to destroy the root of their criminal behavior is equivalent to throwing a vicious lion in a cage and expecting not to be gnawed to death when you open his cage years later. Prison is simply a means of quarantining the criminal, not “curing” them of their vicious thought process.
If prison were truly a means of rehabilitation, why are prisoners left with a criminal record for the rest of their lives? America’s prison system is so flawed that the very persons who support it and “believe in it” don’t trust it enough to not haunt those who have served their time with a criminal record for the rest of their lives. I know how prison affects people all too well, as my entire family has been incarcerated at one point and my father continues to serve life in prison to date. If prison is the response to deviant activity, why don’t we throw 18-year-old men in jail who are deceiving their girlfriend and breaking her heart? Is the act harmless because we can’t see and/or touch the bruise?
2. We’ve only seen one side of the story.
“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” -Malcolm X
Although Malcolm X didn’t live to see how today’s media strategically places a substantial amount of negative images of African American men to justify throwing them in prison, he was clever enough to identify the media’s strategy in the 1960’s. In no way am I diluting the impact of the gruesome attack, but I wonder if Farmer’s critics were given surveillance footage of a troubled-Farmer’s life would their opinion of his punishment remain the same. Hailing from crime-ridden Cleveland, OH, Farmer was probably not short of experiencing some traumatic occurrences in his life that have lead to his decision to abuse Lane today; however, we don’t know anything about his life because his side of the story has yet to be heard. As Dr. Boyce Watkins conveyed in his article about the Evelyn Lozada and Chad Johnson dispute, women are not always the victim in these disputes.
If I were Judge Pamela Barker, I would’ve sentenced him to counseling, community service, and probation. When Farmer gets out of prison three years from now, will he be a recovered “woman beater” or a woman killer? I sincerely hope the latter does not occur. I wish the best for he and the victim, as both parties are at a great loss from this dispute.