Shanesha Taylor’s Case Displays Need for Change in Justice System

Alisha Agard

Shanesha Taylor, a 35-year-old single mother in Arizona, was recently arrested and charged on two counts of child abuse. She wasn’t arrested for hitting her children or abandoning her children for days but was arrested for leaving her 2-year-old and 6-month-old children in her car for 45 minutes while she went to a job interview. An important thing to note before judging her decision to leave her children in the car is that Taylor and her children are homeless, and she had no other option. Going on the job interview granted her hope that she may finally be able to provide for her children, yet what started as a hopeful situation shattered that hope when she was arrested.

For those who are unaware of the way the justice system works, it’s messed up. If Taylor is convicted on the two counts of child abuse, she can face up to 12-16 years in prison, maybe more since she is being charged for two counts. She could also possibly lose her children. The treatment she is receiving is not fair because, in this situation, she did not hit her children, nor did she leave her children in the car to do drugs or party but to better her current situation and the lives of her children. If she could not find people to watch her children and had not left them in the car, she would have missed the job interview and would remain homeless with young children. The sad part is, because she has been arrested and charged, the likelihood of her getting the job is very small.

A similar incident happened a few weeks ago in Seattle where a man left his infant child in a car for eight hours in a parking garage. The police were called and had to force the car doors open to retrieve the child. When the man returned to the scene and was questioned about the situation, his excuse was that he simply forgot the child was in the car. The parents were both allowed to keep the child and are not being charged for child abuse or neglect.

I understand the repercussions of leaving small children in cars for long periods of time, but, fortunately, none of the children in either situation were harmed. The fact is, Taylor’s situation could be different had there been a way for her to have her children in a safe situation while she interviewed. The justice system is failing single mothers like Taylor, who are simply trying to make a good life for their children. Other single mothers are left to suffer for trying to better their situations because the society in which we live tends to leave people like Taylor behind. If there were some sort of child care services available for low-income, single mothers like Taylor, this whole situation could have been avoided and a member of our society would not have to be punished for doing what she could to make a way for her and her children.