Supporters of Genarlow Wilson held a rally yesterday in Douglasville, Georgia, to protest his imprisonment. Wilson was convicted of aggravated child molestation for participating in consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl at a New Year’s Eve party in 2003. He was 17 at the time. The case drew the attention of civil rights activist Al Sharpton, who came to speak at the rally. From MSNBC.com:
“This boy is not only her son, he’s your son, he’s my son,” Sharpton told the cheering crowd from the steps of the Douglas County Courthouse. “We’re here today because what affects you affects all of us.”
Sharpton also held a prayer vigil for Wilson with the members of his family and community.
The case took a turn last week, when a Douglas County judge ruled that Wilson was not eligible for bond, which means he'll stay behind bars until an appeal is completed. Judge David Emerson cancelled the July 5 bond hearing on the arguably draconian ruling that a person convicted of aggravated child molestation is not eligible for a release bond. The crime, one of Georgia’s so-called “seven deadly sins,” carries with it a 10-year prison sentence. Last year, Georgia's legislature reduced Wilson’s conviction to a misdemeanor, which is punishable only by a year in prison, allowing for an appeal on the case.
Dr. Francys Johnson, the Southeast Regional Director of the NAACP, called the decision “the latest series of rulings that strains common sense and leaves the overwhelming impression that the system is working overtime to keep Genarlow Wilson behind bars.”
State Attorney General Thurbert Baker filed a request for expedited review of the case, which was rejected. The earliest date the case could be heard by a court is now October, and it may be as late as April of next year until it happens. Wilson, now 21, has been in prison for more than two years.
This case isn't without precedent; juvenile incarceration has become a huge problem in the United States. Juvenile arrests accounted for 18 percent of all arrests in 2006, and children in jail are far more likely to be the subjects of physical and sexual abuse, especially since all 50 states allow juveniles to be transferred to adult courts. Their prospects aren't much better after being released from prison, either. Twenty-six percent of juvenile inmates are released without a ninth-grade education, and a staggering 90 percent are released without a high school diploma or GED.
Maybe Wilson should call President Bush for a pardon. We think this qualifies as the kind of excessive punishment that was the impetus to spring Scooter Libby from hoosegow.
Rally held for man jailed in consensual oral sex [MSNBC.com]