As I mentioned last week, I have been reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander for a discussion group. This week we were supposed to have read up to chapter 3, and unlike last week, all of the group had at least started the book, some had read more than the requirement, and most of us were at least close to where we were supposed to be. (Speaking for myself, I had not quite finished chapter 2. Oops.) This led to a good discussion, mostly focused on how scary the criminal justice system has become, especially for those in our society without many resources, particularly monetary.
One point that we only briefly touched on was the forfeiture laws. Basically, if illegal drugs have ever been on a property, it can be seized. There is a provision for ‘innocent owner’, but it is very difficult to use this provision. For example, a woman with an abusive husband or boyfriend can lose her house and car just because he used drugs there — she ought to have known and stopped him, even if he was abusive or she never saw the drugs being used.
Courts have not been forgiving of women in these circumstances, frequently concluding that “the nature and circumstances of the marital relationship may give rise to an inference of knowledge by the spouse claiming innocent ownership.” (quoting United States v. One Parcel of Real Estate Located at 9818 S.W. 94 Terrace) p. 82, The New Jim Crow
I find this truly shocking.