In just a few months, Bresha Meadows will finally be out of prison. However, it won’t be due to her case being dismissed, or being granted bail. Moreover, she will not be directly returning home. Instead, due to accepting a plea deal, a 15-year old Bresha will have her time served commuted and sent to a juvenile mental health facility — all for having the audacity to defend her family at a time when no one else would.
Thousands, if not millions, of words have been written about the tragic situation that has befallen the Meadows family. You can read plenty at the official site for Free Bresha here. There are also a bevy of activists, scholars, and influencers who have spent the last year emphasizing the grave miscarriage of justice that Bresha Meadows has undergone, such as PrisonCulture.
It is hard to watch these events play out and not be reminded of the simple fact that Black girls are robbed of their childhood at such a young age. Before they have the chance to make the choice to embrace their womanhood, they are asked to step up time and time again and make sacrifices at great cost to their livelihood and their humanity. For the brave action of protecting her family at the hands of near-constant abuse by almost all accounts, Bresha nearly paid the cost of the rest of her life in prison — and is now expected to be thankful at the so-called liberation a plea deal is supposed to afford her. A plea deal that is contingent upon her admitting that she, a young girl who was doing her best in a toxic and life-threatening situation, somehow committed a crime.
It is an injustice that a settlement like this can even remotely be considered a victory, and that the prosecution has declined to withdraw charges in light of all the circumstances coming to light and the groundswell of support. It is unfathomable that a justice system that claims to pride itself on due process can rest on its laurels at the cost of a Black girl’s childhood, and simultaneously scoff at the notion that the right to a fair trial seems to be one that does not apply to Black people. It is difficult to come to peace with the fact that Bresha’s eventual freedom comes with an eternal scarlet letter on her chest; a guilty conviction that will follow her forever. And even if the records are eventually expunged and sealed, the articles and documents marking her guilty plea will continue to persist. Also, the law in Ohio will continue to remain that any child over the age of 14 is capable of being tried as an adult for a felony.
Bresha’s story (and the several others like hers) is a continual reminder that the rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are civil liberties afforded to the (white) men and women with the means to demand and expect it, while the rest of us are expected to lie in wait for the tiny trickles of generosity that manage to slip their way down and continue to accept the status quo. Bresha was unjustly robbed of an entire year. A whole year of enjoying freedom from the terror at home. A whole year of potentially deciding that she could apply to college, or take the SATs. A whole year of movies with her friends, or preparing to slay in Twitter Prom pictures. The hypotheses are neverending, but the conclusion remains: America owes Bresha a debt that will never be paid, and the Meadows family will never be the same as a result.