Last summer in Michigan, Siwatu-Salama Ra got into a verbal dispute with a neighbor. The neighbor escalated it by ramming her car multiple times into Ra’s vehicle, while her mother and two-year old daughter were nearby. Fearing for her life and that of her family, Ra, pulled out a lawfully owned – but unloaded – firearm and brandished it to scare the neighbor away. Ra was concealed-carry permit holder, in an “open carry” state with a “stand your ground” law on the books.
Now, Mrs. Ra is serving a two-year mandatory minimum sentence for felonious assault and felony firearm convictions. She’s seven months pregnant, and according to her attorneys, she’s receiving insufficient medical care— including being shackled and restrained to her bed during a vaginal exam — even though her pregnancy is considered high-risk. The case is under appeal, but the judge deciding Ra’s fate, Thomas Hathaway, has already denied a request to postpone Ra’s sentence until she gives birth.
This is a nothing short of a miscarriage of justice. In what should be one of the happiest moments of her life, a mother will now tragically be forced to give birth to her child while shackled to a bed while hundreds of miles away from friends and family. And once Ra gives birth, the child will be taken away from her while she completes her sentence. The American criminal justice system needs to do better.
Not only is this a ridiculous outcome for Siwatu-Salama Ra, it will likely have a significant impact for her family.
Women tend to be primary caregivers of young children. With 80% of women incarcerated being mothers, keeping children close makes perfect sense. There is no stronger bond than a mother’s love for her child. According to the Bureau of Statistics, children are 6-7 times more likely to offend as a teenager or adult if they don’t have a relationship or bond with their parent. Removing a newborn child from their mother immediately after birth is cruel and will likely have a negative impact down the line.
Research also shows that 2,000 pregnant women are incarcerated each year. Many of whom will be shackled to the bed while giving birth. According the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, shackling pregnant women endangers not only the mothers, but also can have severe detrimental effects on the health of the child.
Siwatu-Salama Ra should not be in prison. She should be with her family, preparing for one of them most memorable days of her life. Instead, she will be in a concrete cell, shackled by her wrists and ankles, under the watch of a corrections officer – as she welcomes new life into this world.
Please sign our petition asking Governor Snyder to pardon Siwatu-Salama Ra, or at the very least, grant her clemency so that she can return to her family.