Domestic abuse survivor Tondalo Hall has spent the last decade behind bars in a McLoud, Oklahoma prison for “failing to protect” her children from a violent partner.
Robert Braxton, Jr. was arrested in 2004 for breaking the ribs and femur of the couple’s daughter, who was 3 months old at the time. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but ultimately served only two.
Hall, on the other hand, is serving 30 years for not interfering when the child abuse occurred, even though she was a victim of her partner’s violence as well. Hall reports that Braxton had punched and choked her in the past.
Women’s rights group UltraViolet has mobilized to raise awareness of Hall’s case, arguing that the judge’s ruling is unfair and punishes a survivor of domestic violence. The group spearheaded a campaign pressuring Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board to reduce Hall’s sentence.
The board denied Hall’s plea for clemency this week.
UltraViolet co-founder Shaunna Thomas said in a press release:
Survivors of domestic violence are too often criminalized rather than protected. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board had the responsibility to make things right and they failed … This is not justice. Tondalo’s story is tragic and proves that we have a criminal justice system that would rather imprison domestic abuse survivors than get them the counseling and support they need to heal.
Hall still has 20 years left on her sentence, and a trial judge previously denied her appeal for a reduced sentence. She won’t be up for parole until 2030.
Her case is not unique. A BuzzFeed investigation revealed that there are several other cases where mothers received harsher, longer sentences than the men who actually committed the child abuse. In all of the cases, the mothers were also brutalized by their partners.
According to UltraViolet, 75 percent of women in prison are survivors of domestic violence, and in 29 states a mother can be jailed for not protecting her children from an abuser.
The Ms. Magazine Prison and Domestic Violence Shelter Program provides free copies of Ms. to women in shelters and correctional facilities. The recipients often write us and say that reading Ms. helped them stay focused and positive while isolated in an institution. If you want to support the program, please consider making a tax-deductible donation today.