Happy Thursday, everybody. I’m in a pretty good mood today, because Bill and I had a great time at the Keb’ Mo’ show in Mainz last night. I have already written about our experience, so anyone who is curious can pop over to my travel blog and have a look. We had fabulous seats, and Keb’ Mo’ was super entertaining, playing all of the songs I hoped to hear, as well as a few that I need to revisit! The show was supposed to happen on November 16, 2020, which was our 20th wedding anniversary. Of course, we all know what happened in 2020, and that show would go on to be rescheduled three times! Keb’ Mo’ even came out with another album before he had a chance to do last night’s show, which did include some of the newest material. Anyway, it was a great time. I’m not even too perturbed that our upstairs toilet is still kind of “deadlined” until the plumber can get here to fix the flusher.
So now, I’m trying to figure out what today’s post will be about. A couple of days ago, I mentioned the now late Vicky White, a 56 year old former corrections officer from Alabama, who broke her “boyfriend”, 38 year old Casey White, out of jail and absconded with him to Indiana. I enjoy writing about true crime, and this case has “movie of the week” written all over it. I mean, here was a lady who had worked at the jail for years, was second in command, and was highly regarded by her colleagues. And yet, for some reason, she decided to retire several years before she would have turned 60, which is when she could have retired with benefits. She was to retire on her last day of work. She also sold her house for $90,000, which was well below market value. What the hell was she thinking? What caused a respected corrections officer to become a fugitive in her final days of life?
I remember when the story first hit the news. At first, people wondered if maybe Vicky White had been overpowered or manipulated in some way by Casey White (no relation), who is 6’9″ tall. Vicky White, who had been the assistant director of corrections for Lauderdale County, in Alabama, had told other staffers at the jail that she was going to take Casey White to a mental health evaluation. After that, she said she had intended to seek medical care for herself. When the Whites didn’t return to the jail, some checking was done, and it turned out that the mental health evaluation story was bogus, and Vicky had also lied about going to see a doctor. They also realized that Vicky White had violated policy by traveling alone with the inmate. Naturally, that led investigators to believe that she was complicit in helping Casey White escape the jail and stay on the run for eleven days. Later, investigators said that video footage had proven that the escape was well-planned, although I’m not sure if White planned anything beyond getting Casey White out of jail.
In the time following the escape, more research shows that Vicky White had used disguises, forged her name, and used aliases. She and Casey White spent eight whole days in Evansville, Indiana before they were finally confronted by the authorities and led then on a high speed car chase that ended with an accident. White’s final call to 911 has been made available to the press. On May 9, 2022, she shot herself in the head with a handgun before police were able to arrest her. Casey White had asked officers to “help his wife”, although they were not married to each other. Then we hear an officer saying they needed to clear “some of this shit out of the way”. Vicky White still had the gun in her hand after she shot herself with it. She was still breathing at the scene, but later died at a local hospital.
Thinking about this case, it makes me wonder what in the world had recently happened in her life to cause Vicky White’s life to go off the skids like this. She made some very strange and troubling decisions in her last days on the planet. Having spent so many years in her criminal justice career, I wonder if the realization that she’d made such a huge mistake caused her to implode the way she did. But I really wonder how it was that she came to be in a relationship with Casey White in the first place. In his case, I almost feel like maybe he was hoping a cop would kill him. I guess I can understand that, as it’s definitely not ideal to be incarcerated. And now, thanks to this escape, life for Casey White will probably be sheer hell from now on. I read the police chief in Alabama said White would be cuffed and shackled 24/7 in his cell, and he would definitely have a lot more guards watching his every move. He is now in a state prison, about 100 miles south of the jail from which he had escaped with Vicky White, who had apparently begun a secret relationship with him when he spent time, intermittently, at the jail where she worked for pre-trial hearings. Casey White had initially been locked up for stabbing and killing Connie Ridgeway in 2015. Now, the authorities will add escape charges to his rap sheet.
I feel for the people who worked with Vicky White. No doubt, they had many good memories of working with her, and didn’t want to see her go down this path, or end her life in the way she did. I also feel for Vicky’s family, especially her mother. I guess that Vicky felt she couldn’t face her family, friends, and former colleagues. She probably felt disgraced, and this situation may have seemed hopeless. This year, she was voted “Corrections Employee of the Year”, and it was not the first time she had achieved that honor.
It surprises me that none of her co-workers saw or said anything about this supposed relationship Vicky White had with Casey White. Didn’t they notice anything? Below is another video, posted two days before they were found in Indiana. Supposedly, Vicky had a “double life”.
One inmate in the above video said that it was “chaotic” in the jail, and she wasn’t surprised Vicky was able to break Casey out of there. It makes me wonder if people who worked there just ignored policies as a matter of course. Someone in the video mentioned that Vicky was divorced, but still lived with her ex husband, who died in January of this year of Parkinson’s Disease. Another person, a former co-worker, says she had a “dark side”, and didn’t resemble the sunny blonde in the photos that were released. He also felt that she knew exactly what she was doing, and had planned this for a long time.
I guess time will reveal whatever can be gleaned from the information that comes up in the wake of this situation. We’ll never really know what motivated Vicky White to take these steps that led to her death. But at least Casey is back behind bars. I’ll be watching to see what else comes from this story. I’m sure someone will write a book. Dr. Todd Grande has already made a video about it.
There are so many things I could write about this morning. Like, for instance, I read that Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s former girlfriend and fellow sex pest, has been convicted. She was facing six charges, and was convicted of five of them, including: sex trafficking of a minor, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three related counts of conspiracy. She now faces up to 65 years in prison. Her sentencing date has not yet been announced, and her attorneys vow to appeal. That’s what they all say, of course…
I don’t take any particular delight when anyone gets convicted of a crime and faces a long stint in prison, but I do think justice has been served in this case, just as I did when Josh Duggar was found guilty. People who endanger others, particularly when there’s violence or coercion involved, and particularly when the crimes involve preying on vulnerable people, should go to prison. They should be removed from society so that law abiding citizens are less at risk. But, of course, that’s not saying a whole lot in the United States these days.
Anyway, suffice to say, I think it’s right that Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty. I think she should be treated humanely, as I hope all prisoners are, but I believe it’s correct to send her to prison for what she did. I hope Donald Trump is next.
Yesterday afternoon, I watched America’s Broken Dream, a 2012 French documentary that was posted on YouTube. The documentary, which was presented in English, was about homeless people in the United States as of about ten years ago. It was a bit depressing, on many levels, to watch it, especially given what has happened since 2012. Several families were interviewed– people who were homeless or “half homeless”, living in cheap motels. All of the stories were compelling, although it was the last family that really caught my attention.
Toward the end of this documentary, a young couple with two adorable little daughters is profiled. The mom, Amber Carter, is in California with her girls, presumably because California, as a “blue” state, offers better social safety nets for poor people. Dad, Daniel Carter, is in Kentucky, working manual jobs to support his young family.
At one point, Daniel comes to California to see his wife and their little girls. I am struck by how much he seems to love the kids, and his wife. Amber is shown trying to fill out job applications, but finds it impossible because she has two tiny kids to look after. I was wondering what she would do with the girls if she did get hired. I know from my days as a MSW student that decent child care is not cheap, always available, or widely accessible to everyone.
It looked like things might be improving for the young family. I had some hope that they might recover. But then Daniel Carter is arrested in Kentucky for striking and killing his neighbor, a man named Christopher Mitchell, with a hatchet. Carter maintains that Mitchell was drunk and had attacked him. He claims that he hit the guy in the head with a hatchet in self-defense.
Carter did plead guilty to fleeing and evading the police, and resisting arrest. But somehow, there wasn’t enough evidence to try Carter for the murder of Christopher Mitchell. He was released after serving 135 days in jail, time he was already credited for when he faced the judge. Another blog, titled Liar Catchers, has this article about Daniel Carter. Christopher Mitchell’s family was “furious” that Carter got away with killing their relative, especially since it wasn’t the first time he had killed someone.
I don’t believe it was mentioned in the documentary that Daniel Carter also did some time as a juvenile in Florida for killing his Uncle Jack Carter with a knife, back in the early 00s. Carter spent 19 months locked up in jail, but was later acquitted of first degree murder charges stemming from the July 2002 stabbing death of his uncle. In that case, Carter also claimed self-defense, as his uncle reportedly had come to his home to help discipline him. Daniel Carter, who was fifteen years old at the time, claimed his uncle had gone into a rage, and he had attacked him with a rusty knife to protect himself. Jack Carter was stabbed ten times, with one wound to the neck that proved to be fatal.
Many people found it hard to believe that Carter got off in that case, too. One witness said that she’d never seen Jack Carter behave in a violent way and people were shocked that his nephew, Daniel Carter, wasn’t convicted. I’m sure that prior case could not be considered when Daniel Carter fatally wounded another man in Kentucky, but it does seem eerie that he killed two men in similar ways and got away with it both times.
This is Daniel Carter. Pensacola natives might remember him as the boy who murdered his Uncle Jack Carter back in 2002. Though he stabbed his uncle over 10 times with a machete, cutting his throat and nearly severing one of his arms in the process, he was found not guilty of the crime. Why? I’ll never know. Jack’s sister, (Daniel’s mother), had called Jack over to the house that night to help her discipline Daniel, a troubled teen, whom she was unable to control. After the brutal murder of Jack Carter, members of the community, led by his mother Cindy, rallied around Daniel, who was only 15 at the time. Community members even held a fundraiser for Daniel’s defense at Bamboo Willie’s. They got him a renowned child advocacy attorney, who went on to paint a picture of a poor, abused teen, who feared for his life when he took a machete and stabbed his uncle over 10 times that night. When Daniel was release from jail after the trial, people rejoiced that he had won his freedom back. After all, poor Daniel didn’t mean to kill his uncle when he stabbed him repeatedly.
Let’s fast forward to 2012. Daniel now lives in Kentucky. And in Kentucky, after a dispute with his landlord, (who apparently had a pointed stick in his hand), Daniel proceeded to take a hatchet, (yes, a HATCHET) and plant in right in the center of his landlord’s forehead, killing him. Believe it or not, Daniel was released from jail. Self defense again. In any case, the reason I am posting this is because Daniel is a Pensacola native, and I have no idea where he is now, but it’s defintely possible that he could be back here. If you ever happen to see him and have a disagreement with him, I would advise you to RUN. Whatever you do, DO NOT confront this man. He obvioulsy has a temper, and his history shows he is very dangerous!
On a side note, the last time I saw Jack was about a week before he passed away. I hadn’t seen him in a while, so we exchanged hugs, and sat down to catch up over a drink. He was beaming. Smiling ear to ear. He told me he was inlove. He told me he never thought “this kind of happiness was possible”. And he told me that for the first time in a long time, he was excited about the future, not just going through the motions of the day to day routine. He was happy to be alive
And a few days later, he was gone. Rest in Peace, Jack. You are not forgotten.
One woman commented that she had been married to Daniel Carter. She wrote that he had conned her and her mother, and he was a very violent person. She expressed gratitude that they didn’t manage to have children together. I guess she must have been married to him before he was married to Amber, the woman who was portrayed as his wife in the documentary, as well as the mother to his two adorable little girls. If you click on the link directly above, you can read the comments about Daniel Carter and people who know him.
I didn’t know anything at all about this couple or the true crimes that were connected with them when I was watching the documentary. From what I could see on the video, Amber Carter was a good and attentive mom, even though she and her girls were living in their old car. It’s certainly not a crime to be poor. I was also struck by Daniel. He seemed to be a friendly, charismatic person. I could see how he charmed people, as he was well-spoken and seemed to work hard, and loved his daughters very much.
It just goes to show you that friendly, charming, well-spoken people really can be hiding monstrous characteristics under the surface. In the documentary, his boss says that Daniel Carter has an “amazing work ethic” and that his little girls are all he talks about. To hear him tell it, Daniel is a fine young man and dedicated provider to his family. I truly enjoyed watching him interact with his daughters, who really seemed to love him. He seemed to love them right back. I was genuinely saddened when the announcer in the documentary talked about Daniel’s arrest. The Carters seemed like they might somehow make it– or, at least it seemed like they were trying to get out of the hole they were in.
I got curious about Amber Carter, so I looked her up. Sadly, it appears that she might also have some serious legal problems. In September 2021, a woman named Amber Carter, who roughly matches the age and description of the Amber Carter in the documentary, was wanted by the police in Jones County, Mississippi. She was accused of “giving birth to a child who tested positive for methamphetamine” and was to face one count of felony child abuse. According to this article, Amber Carter was captured about a week after the news reported about her. She is, at this writing, listed on the inmate roster in Jones County, Mississippi.
As I was searching for more information about the recent charges against Amber Carter, I also ran across another item from May 2018, which appeared to involve the same woman– again, for giving birth to a baby who tested positive for cocaine and meth. If this is the same Amber, that means she’s had at least two more children who have been born into deplorable circumstances and are likely in foster care now.
While it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if the Amber Carter who was wanted in Mississippi is the same Amber Carter in the documentary, it does make me sad that it could be, and probably is, her. The Amber in the documentary genuinely seemed to be a good mom, although it could be she was only like that when the cameras were rolling. I suppose I can understand how a person in the situation Amber and the other people profiled in the documentary might fall into drug abuse, but it really does seem like a terrible shame.
Although there seems to be an age discrepancy between the documentary Amber and the Amber in the above mug shot, I do think they are one and the same. The documentary was released in 2012, but 2008 was when the recession was really bad. I think it’s very likely that the footage was filmed in the years prior to 2012, and if that’s the case, then the ages for Amber in the documentary and Amber in the mug shot line up perfectly. Also, there is a very strong physical resemblance.
After I finished watching the documentary, I happened across a guest opinion essay in The New York Times about a woman who had once owned a home and horses. She was raised in Palo Alto, California by successful parents, and went to college and studied journalism. Lori Teresa Yearwood once had it all– including her own business. But a series of misfortunes and subsequent mental health challenges plunged her into homelessness. She spent two years on the streets, where she was sexually assaulted multiple times.
Yearwood went to several hospitals via ambulance after the assaults. She was so traumatized that she couldn’t speak, so hospital administrators did not know she was homeless– or, so they claim. As she was getting back on her feet again, with the help of Utah-based non-profit organization, Journey of Hope and an accountant she knew from her days as a business owner, Yearwood discovered just how outrageously expensive being homeless is. People don’t realize that homeless people often incur debts because they get arrested and fined. Yearwood also had huge hospital and ambulance bills, due to visiting the facilities after she was assaulted and locked in a storage shed for two days.
Fortunately, once she was functioning again, Yearwood was able to advocate for herself. She’s now back to working as a reporter. She got the huge medical bills dismissed, after she explained to the hospital administrators that she would be reporting about how they treated her. From the opinion piece, Yearwood wrote:
A public relations official responded that while in the hospital’s care, I refused to speak, so staff members didn’t know I was homeless. I explained that I had not refused to speak; I had been traumatized and had gone essentially mute for two years. By this time in my renewed journalism career, I had obtained my medical records, so I showed the hospital administrators some of the doctors’ notes about me. The next email from the hospital was swift: “Upon reviewing your account, we have decided to honor your claim of being homeless at the time of service and wrote off the remaining balance.”
I asked the hospital administrators if they were going to respond to the harm they had caused by ruining my credit: the stress and sleepless nights, the fact that I could no longer qualify for low interest rates on mortgages. The spokesman apologized but said, “All I can do is make it right going forward.”
Lori Teresa Yearwood is one of the lucky ones. I know it’s hard to climb out of poverty. I remember when Bill and I were first married, we weren’t impoverished, but it sure felt that way. I seriously thought we’d never get out of debt. It took years to do it, but I had my eye on the prize, and we were very fortunate in many ways. Moving to Germany, for instance, was a great move for our finances. But not everyone can do what we did… and many people are burdened by having children to raise.
I look at Amber Carter and I suspect that years of living as she was depicted in the America’s Broken Dream documentary wore her down on many levels. I’m sure that using drugs and having unprotected sex were two escapes for her that made life temporarily more pleasant. But those decisions ultimately made her personal situation much worse, and they also made things worse for her innocent children. She joins so many Americans who are incarcerated, and will find it so much harder to function once they are released.
As for Yearwood, I think she makes an excellent point that Americans need to pay more attention to treating mental health issues. Yearwood was doing great until the 2008 recession hit, she had credit problems that led to foreclosure, the Oregon house she was renting burned down, her dog died, and then, in 2014, she had a mental health breakdown that made it impossible to continue operating her business. When she was slowly recovering in 2017, she was fortunate enough to run into people who coaxed her toward rejoining society. She writes:
Nonprofit employees who work with the homeless should be trained in how to interact with people who have experienced trauma. Otherwise, they may inadvertently shame their clients for being hesitant to return to an economic system that has already penalized and punished them. A classic symptom of trauma is avoiding the source of that trauma.
As I was emerging from homelessness, I trusted very few people. I needed what advocates call a soft handoff. I would never have considered going to a group trying to help me unless someone I trusted had referred me and would go with me. My initial soft handoff was arranged by Shannon Cox, a former police officer and the founder of Journey of Hope. She took me to lunch and drove me to the hospitals to pick up all the records that I had no idea I was going to need to later protect myself financially.
Now, Yearwood is able to advocate for herself and others, but if not for people who cared enough to help her, she might still be on the street. She might still be at risk of sexual assault and falling into illegal drug use to escape the despair. Maybe she might be in a position similar to Amber Carter’s, although thankfully, there probably wouldn’t be any innocent children involved.
The America’s Broken Dream documentary also profiles other families– people who had jobs and homes, and their children, who were forced to live in cheap motels and worry about being picked up by child protective services. I might have to see if any of those people managed to pull themselves out of homelessness. I know it’s hard, though, because as Yearwood points out, it’s very expensive to be poor. A lot of people have no idea. And there but by the grace of God go any of us, unfortunately.
Documentaries like America’s Broken Dream scare the hell out of me, and make me so grateful for what I have… and for Bill, who works so hard to provide for us. But, I swear, every time I read a news article about financial ruin– something that Bill has already survived when he was with his ex wife– I want to start another bank account. It really is hard getting by in America if you don’t have the right skills, enough support, and luck.
Last night, as the evening was winding down, I noticed an op-ed in TheNew York Times about a young woman from Oklahoma named Brittney Poolaw. I have gifted the op-ed in the above link, so if you don’t have a subscription to the paper, you should be able to read it for free.
So who is Brittney Poolaw, and why should anyone care about her? According to Michelle Goldberg, author of the op-ed, Brittney Poolaw is a woman who is sitting in prison because she miscarried during her seventeenth week of pregnancy. At the time of her miscarriage, Poolaw was just 19 years old. She was at home when the miscarriage happened, and had presented herself for medical attention at Comanche County Memorial Hospital.
A police detective interviewed Ms. Poolaw after she admitted to hospital staff that she had used methamphetamines and marijuana during her pregnancy. The medical examiner who examined Brittney Poolaw’s fetus cited her drug use as contributing factors in the miscarriage. Also cited were a congenital abnormality and placental abruption.
Poolaw was arrested on a charge of first degree manslaughter. She didn’t have the money for the $20,000 bond, so she spent a year and a half in jail, awaiting her trial. The trial finally occurred this month, and jurors spent less than three hours deciding Brittney Poolaw’s fate. She was found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison, even though an expert witness explained that Poolaw’s drug use might not have been the direct cause of the miscarriage.
I recently mentioned that I’ve been watching a lot of videos by Jessica Kent, a YouTube personality who has a lot of experience with being in jail and prison. Jessica has done time in several states, mainly because she is a recovering drug addict. She also had the unfortunate experience of giving birth while incarcerated. I have been studying prison reform independently for years, but Jessica Kent’s videos have really opened my eyes to just how unjust and inhumane the U.S. prison system is, particularly for people with drug addictions.
I know a lot of people would say that the answer is simple; just don’t do drugs. And I think that advice is easy to follow if you are fortunate enough to come from a supportive family, live in an area where there are many opportunities for work and socializing, have access and the ability to pay for healthcare, and have the will and the drive not to succumb to temptation or peer pressure.
In Poolaw’s case, simply being able to get to a doctor and, perhaps, having an abortion available to her might have prevented her from being imprisoned. According to Goldberg’s opinion piece, Poolaw told the detective that “when she found out she was pregnant she didn’t know if she wanted the baby or not. She said she wasn’t familiar with how or where to get an abortion.” Seems to me that it would have been kinder and better if Brittney could have either had an abortion, or had access to a physician and, perhaps, a social worker or other advocate while she was pregnant.
When I was studying social work, I did part of my internship with what was then called Healthy Families South Carolina. It was a program that was affiliated with Prevent Child Abuse America, and it was designed to help people like Brittney Poolaw maintain healthy pregnancies and get very young children off to a healthier start. Those who were enrolled in the program got home visit services from workers who would help them access healthcare and teach them about making safe and healthy decisions for their babies. These families got coaching from trained parent educators and, in fact, that made a noticeable difference in the outcomes for a lot of the clients. That was something I noted in the massive paper I wrote and presented for my MPH/MSW degrees. Wow… it just occurred to me that the babies I saw when I was finishing my degree are now adults! Time really flies!
Why didn’t someone direct Brittney Poolaw to a program like that? My guess is because she couldn’t access the healthcare system and never got a referral. What would have happened if she could have gotten to a doctor early in her pregnancy? Maybe she would have chosen to have an abortion, or maybe she would have had her baby. And maybe she would have been able to access support from people who are trained to work with young people with big problems. I know nothing about Brittney Poolaw or her past, but experience tells me that a lot of people who end up in her situation have had some pretty terrible traumas in their lives and experienced abuse.
I know a lot of people think that Brittney Poolaw deserves to be in prison for taking drugs while she was pregnant. But having worked with young people who are poor, disenfranchised, and lacking meaningful mentorship, I can understand why she turned to drugs. It happens to so many people. And I think instead of prison, Brittney Poolaw should have gotten compassionate medical attention and real help from someone who might have shown her that she has worth. Having watched so many of Jessica Kent’s videos, I realize that Brittney Poolaw is probably facing even more abuse and degradation on a daily basis now. I don’t think that’s going to help her turn away from drugs when she is finally released from prison.
But, aside from the fact that I think Poolaw’s community really failed her, I also think that other women have much to fear from this ruling. It really is a slippery slope when pregnant women wind up in legal trouble for things they do while pregnant that lead to a loss of the pregnancy. In Poolaw’s case, the actions that contributed to her miscarriage were illegal, but what if she’d had one too many glasses or wine, or something? What if she’d been in a car without a seatbelt or was wearing it incorrectly? What if she tripped and fell down some stairs?
I think it’s very scary that any woman who gets pregnant might find herself being scrutinized by law enforcement after a miscarriage. Not only is it an invasion of privacy, but it also may cause women like Poolaw to avoid seeking medical care. That might be especially true if she’s doing something like drinking alcohol or using drugs. I know a lot of physicians would prefer not to have to deal with drug using pregnant women, but they are precisely the women who need the most attention from someone who has medical expertise. Moreover, it really is chilling to think that the developing fetuses in already born people are superseding the already born people’s civil rights.
The pro-life/anti-abortion movement has been working tirelessly to change laws so that developing embryos and fetuses are seen as “babies” and “children”. But if you take a close look at what happens during pregnancy, it actually takes a pretty long while before the developing embryos and fetuses turn into anything viable outside of the womb. Until then, they really are part of the mother, and it really does seem wrong to me that we should put pregnant women in a different class–with different rules and civil rights– than people who aren’t pregnant. It’s beyond creepy that some judges, particularly in the South, are using situations like Brittney Poolaw’s to chip away at Roe v. Wade and promote the whole “sanctity of life” movement. It seems to me that life is only sacred to these types of folks when it involves the unborn. Once a person has been born, they’re on their own… and God help them stay out of prison.
Should Brittney Poolaw have had an abortion? I suppose she should have, especially since she clearly wasn’t ready to be a mother and had no resources to help her maintain a healthy pregnancy. I’m not sure how open she would have been to receiving help from a social worker or someone else who works with at risk parents and children. But I do think she should have had the option presented to her. It sounds to me like she didn’t have anyone to go to for help when she got pregnant. Instead, she turned to drugs.
I admittedly haven’t looked at Oklahoma’s social welfare programs and I don’t what is available for young people like Brittney Poolaw, but my guess is that even if they are widely available, Poolaw didn’t know how to access them. That’s not really something that is taught in school, at least in my experience. In my first year of my MSW program, I did my internship at a multi-disciplinary rural physician’s practice associated with the University of South Carolina. My clients were referred to me by a family doctor in a rural community. But it sounds like Brittney didn’t have a doctor, and it looks like she was no longer in school… so where would she have gotten a referral to someone like I was when I was in graduate school?
Perhaps the police could have referred her, instead of arresting her and putting her in prison… Or… the medical staff, who should have advocated for her and helped her with her medical problems could have assisted her in finding someone to help her with her problems. Sadly, it sounds like instead of getting the help she obviously needs, Brittney Poolaw will be wasting four years in a prison cell… along with so many other Americans. I hope someday the United States gets over its obsession with incarcerating people. We’ve got to do better than this.
We’ve been hearing about the dangerous “delta variant” of the coronavirus. On Friday, June 11th, 2021, another dangerous “Delta” variant emerged. In this case, it wasn’t a virus that was causing havoc. It was yet another passenger on a transcontinental Delta flight. And this particular “disruptive” passenger wasn’t just any rank and file person; it was an off duty Delta flight attendant.
A couple of days ago, I heard about the scary Delta flight that was forced to divert to Oklahoma City due to an “unruly” passenger. The flight, which had taken off from Los Angeles and was bound for Atlanta, went awry when the off duty Delta flight attendant apparently lost his shit mid flight. According to news reports, the unidentified passenger got on the intercom and told passengers to take their seats and prepare to use the oxygen masks. He reportedly attacked two flight attendants and threatened to bring down the plane. Naturally, that made people pretty tense. Next thing everyone knew, the captain made a request for “strong males” to help restrain a problem passenger.
In a widely circulated video, the aggressive passenger’s screams can be heard as several large men wearing face masks tackle him to the ground. A flight attendant asks everyone to take their seats so the man– likely now a former colleague– can be properly restrained.
No one was injured in this incident. After the plane landed in Oklahoma City, law enforcement removed him and took him to a hospital. He was also questioned by the FBI. It’s being said that the flight attendant has “mental health issues”. Gee… you think?
Many people are reacting to this crisis by suggesting huge fines, lifetime bans, and jail time for passengers that freak out on planes. They reason that the reason there’s been a huge uptick in violent behavior on airplanes is because people are just “brats” who need to be punished. But I watched that video involving the guy on the Delta flight. To me, it looks like he has a mental illness. I doubt very seriously that the threat of a huge fine, imprisonment, or a ban on future flights would have prevented his outburst. Something is clearly medically wrong with him. He needs help from a competent psychiatrist, not a jail sentence or a fine.
Think about this. This guy was a flight attendant for Delta. He was probably on his way to work. Flight attendants often take “deadhead” flights to commute to their assignments if they don’t happen to live in the city where the flight originates. Maybe the guy lives in Los Angeles and had to work a flight originating in Atlanta. Or maybe he was on his way home after working.
The fact that the guy was a Delta flight attendant means he went through eight weeks of rigorous training. According to a 2018 era CNBC article, each year, over 100,000 apply to become Delta flight attendants, and less than one percent get hired. So that means he must have had something good going for him prior to that terrible flight during which he, hopefully temporarily, lost his marbles.
I have read that many flight attendants are on the edge of insanity right now, thanks to the huge increase of “unruly passenger incidents” over the past few months. Let’s face it. The events of the past five years have been unprecedented. I remember in 2016, I shared the above photo on social media. In 2021, I look at that photo about how “awful” 2016 was, and realize that we had no idea of what was coming. Seriously… the past five years have been an unprecedented shit show for a lot of people. Many folks who would ordinarily be perfectly calm, normal, law abiding citizens are losing their shit on a daily basis!
According to the Washington Post article I just posted:
The Federal Aviation Administration told The Washington Post this week that it has received about 2,900 reports of unruly passenger behavior since Jan. 1. Roughly 2,200 of those involved passengers who would not comply with the federal mandate to wear a face covering. The agency identified potential violations in 446 of those cases and has started enforcement action in 42.
Those numbers have grown over the past couple of weeks: When the FAA last released an update on May 24, it had gotten 2,500 reports of bad behavior with about 1,900 involving masks. The agency has not tracked the number of such reports from airlines in past years, but it said it investigated a total of 1,548 unruly passenger cases between 2010 and 2020.
So… since January 1, 2021, there have been 2900 reports of “unruly passenger behavior”. Prior to that, from 2010-2020, there were 1,548 reports of “unruly passenger behavior”. That means that in just five months, there have been twice as many “unruly passengers” flying than in the ten years before! That is a HUGE increase.
This phenomenon can’t be happening because every single “unruly passenger” is an unlawful asshole who needs to be straightened out with fines, jail time, and a lifetime ban from flights. People are unusually stressed out and some are legitimately mentally ill. Thanks to the pandemic, it’s much more difficult for those people to access the mental healthcare they need.
Moreover, consider what a pain in the ass flying is even when times are normal. Airports are often busy, stressful places with crowds, noise, and standing in line. Now, everybody has to do that with a face mask on, and increased scrutiny and intolerance from others. I know a lot of people don’t think the masks are a big deal, but the evidence shows that not everyone feels that way. Those people, like it or not, are clearly demanding to be heard.
I have mentioned that I have no desire whatsoever to fly right now. Before the pandemic, we had to contend with high ticket prices, tight seats, inconsiderate recliners, seat kickers, bad food, delays, crowds, and uptight security agents. Now, it seems like there are a lot of people who resent the COVID-19 rules, and a lot of people who are extremely neurotic and hyper-vigilant and demanding about enforcing the rules. Some people are calling for “zero tolerance” rules, which means that every rule violator gets treated the same, regardless of why they are violating the rules. That leads to even more stress than there was before.
Could it be that the Delta flight attendant was possibly dealing with the aftereffects of his very stressful job– a job in which many of his colleagues report increased disrespect and abuse from angry and stressed out passengers? If he also has an organic psychiatric problem, especially if it was untreated, that would only add to the stress. Was he on some kind of medication that he missed? Did he have a psychotic break of some kind? Having watched the video, I can’t agree that he was just someone who was acting like an asshole. He looks like he’s seriously mentally ill. If that’s the case, he has a medical problem, and should be treated as such. We should have some compassion for him instead of insults.
After I read one too many comments about how the airlines need to make things even stricter and more unpleasant for everyone, I had to leave one of my own. I wrote that I didn’t think someone with a mental illness was going to stop and think about zero tolerance policies or onerous consequences before acting out. So those measures won’t do any good. People who are mentally healthy are likely to be cooperative anyway. People who are mentally ill might not be able to help themselves when they freak out.
We wouldn’t punish someone for having a heart attack or a seizure on an airplane, would we? So why would we take those actions when someone has a psychiatric emergency? Psychiatric problems are medical problems, too, and they can often be fixed with medication. I know this from personal experience. The Delta flight attendant who went nuts the other day may be right as rain if he gets appropriate treatment. So why would we ban him from flying for life if all he might need is medical treatment?
Now… if it turns out he was drunk or high or was just being an uncooperative jerk… or he was actually expressing premeditated intentions to hurt people by bringing weapons on the plane– okay. Those people should be punished. There are a lot of inconsiderate assholes out there who probably should be sanctioned. But in this case, I think I’d like to know more about what happened before I would call for a lifetime ban on flying, huge fines, or jail time. If this guy has a mental illness, jail will not help him or society, anyway.
Here’s something else that people may not be considering when they suggest lifetime flying bans. This guy– once a trained Delta flight attendant– must have been normal at some point. Consider that by banning him, the airlines are also going to be banning anyone close to him. I don’t know a thing about this guy’s family situation, but do you think that if Delta bans him, his significant others or children will choose to fly Delta? What about supportive friends and extended family members and their immediate families? That’s a lot of potentially missed revenue for the airlines, and if every single unruly passenger is banned from flying, it could have a serious negative effect on business.
Of course, the counter argument is that people won’t fly unless these “unruly” types don’t get banned. But think about this… how many folks who claim they’ll never fly again are actually going to follow what happens to this man, once he’s out of the news? Maybe someone like me– I like to read follow up news about certain cases. But most people are busier with their lives than I am. They’ll forget all about this once it blows over. A lifetime ban is “forever”, though, and that could have a really serious effect on this guy’s life, even after he gets well. He may not deserve a lifetime ban.
After I wrote my comment that this appears to be a mental health issue and the flight attendant probably wouldn’t have considered the consequences before he acted, the poster to whom I had responded wrote that it would be up to the courts to decide. My response was:
“Exactly. It’s not for you or me or anyone else in the comment section to decide what the appropriate action is in this case. This man needs to be evaluated by a qualified mental health provider, not judged by the masses. Jail would not help someone with a mental health problem and appropriate treatment could make all the difference. I’m sure you would want that kind of forbearance and due process for yourself and your loved ones should you have the misfortune of being affected by a mental illness.”
I honestly doubt this man– who was employed by Delta and no doubt has no doubt felt the huge strain of the past fifteen months, particularly for flight attendants– was planning to act out on this flight. He deserves some consideration for his psychiatric medical problem, if he has one. If clear evidence emerges that he deliberately misbehaved on the flight, that’s another story. Zero tolerance rules usually make zero sense, because every situation is different.
As for me… I continue to avoid flying, if I can. I don’t want to pay for this experience. I would rather wait until things are a bit more under control and “normal”. And I hope this won’t be the “new normal”. We shouldn’t expect that it will be.
A few days ago, I wrote a post called “Waiting for ‘contact'”. It was inspired by watching Statcounter and noticing that people sometimes hit the same post over and over again, then go to my contact page. Sometimes, they go there repeatedly, as if expecting to find something new, when all there is on that page is a form to fill out if you want to send me a private message. There’s no “about me” post there, or anything, and the comments on that page don’t automatically get published. Or, at least they haven’t been yet. 😉
Sometimes, people will read posts repeatedly, but come in through the back door. That is, they access my blog via a seemingly unrelated post, then go to another post. I notice that seems to be happening regarding a post I recently wrote about Debra Hunter, the Florida mom who was sentenced to a month in jail for purposefully “coughing” on a woman who was filming her meltdown at a Pier 1 store. That was one of the posts that I decided not to publicize on my Overeducated Housewife Facebook page (which, once again, I am considering deleting).
That’s right… sometimes I deliberately don’t share posts on social media. I would say probably 98% of fresh content and a lot of reposts do get shared on my personal page and the OH page, but every once in awhile, I will write a post and not put it out there. I do that, because I don’t relish getting into fights with people over what may be unpopular opinions. I realize that’s kind of cowardly of me, but there are only so many hours in a day and I have only so much energy. I try hard to explain how I come to my unpopular opinions, but I’ve found that many people don’t care about the hows or whys of how I come to my viewpoints. Instead, they simply want to argue or “correct” other people’s opinions. And since this is my blog, and we’re paying a good sum for the business plan so I can have certain plug in tools (and not because I’m selling anything), I figure I have the right to run it as I see fit.
But I do pay close attention… and I have noticed this person in Florida who seems to be coming in through the back door. He or she is repeatedly hitting a post entitled “A Man’s Got to Put in Overtime to Get Me Off“, which is mostly about Jenna Ryan, the real estate broker in Texas who was whining about the potential for her to go to jail for storming the Capitol, but also references a line and notoriously funny scene in Eddie Murphy’s film, Coming to America. Then I notice that the person searches internally for Debra Hunter, and is probably visiting a post I wrote about a woman who was made viral for melting down at Pier 1. The Hunter post was never shared on my social media and, so far, has remained quiet. But this person comes back and searches… perhaps looking for more dirt or controversy or whatever. So today, after a couple of weeks of this treatment, I’ve decided to add something new to their search about Debra Hunter on my blog.
So… what do Jenna Ryan and Debra Hunter have in common, besides going viral on the Internet and having a lot of perfect strangers wishing for their lives to be destroyed by infamy? To my mind, I don’t think the situations are that comparable. Jenna Ryan, you see, actively boasted about flying in a private jet to Washington, DC, where she would be meeting up with thousands of other people with the explicit intent to interfere in the congressional proceedings certifying Joe Biden as our 46th president. This wasn’t a matter of people who were peacefully protesting, either. Several people died, and many more were injured. There was also quite a lot of property damage, particularly to the Capitol building itself, as well as psychological damage done to the rest of the country.
Jenna Ryan was in the thick of it all, lustily cheering on the destruction and actively participating in it. When she was later held legally accountable for her actions, she complained that it “wasn’t fair” that she’s facing a jail sentence and fines, since she was only “following her president”. She outwardly stated that she hoped Trump would grant her, and her calamitous buddies, pardons for their outrageous behavior. Quite predictably, their orange “zero hero” did not come through with any pardons, so they’re all going to have to face the legal music. Jenna Ryan complained about that, too, whining pitifully about how she was “duped”. How is it that such a “gorgeous” and “successful” real estate broker (in her mind) wasn’t smart enough to see what so many of us could see so plainly from day ONE of Trump’s time in the White House (and really, prior to then, too)?
Ryan has steadfastly refused to take responsibility for her willfully and wantonly dangerous actions. I haven’t checked on her lately, but for several weeks, she was quite gamely sparring with all comers on the Internet, releasing videos, talking to the press, and just basically being a shameless asshole.
Debra Hunter, by contrast, fell into Internet infamy due to an incident in June 2020. A total stranger caught her on camera, having gone off on a Pier 1 clerk. The stranger, a woman named Heather Sprague, claims to be medically fragile and she was mightily upset by hearing Hunter’s harsh words at Pier 1. She claims, but to my knowledge, never proved, that Hunter had been ranting for fifteen minutes or more as she ignored her child doing a “potty dance”. Then, when Hunter noticed Sprague filming her, she quite understandably got pissed, flipped her off with both hands, and “coughed” on her. That caused a problem for Sprague, who says she’s been treated for a brain tumor and has health problems, and is also the mother of ten children, some of whom are also fragile.
Now… I don’t condone what Debra Hunter did. I don’t think yelling at clerks is good behavior. I also don’t think coughing on someone deliberately is appropriate, even when there isn’t a COVID-19 pandemic happening. I do think she should be punished for her actions. However, unlike Jenna Ryan, I have not seen Debra Hunter promoting herself for weeks on the Internet or in the news. In fact, even though this incident went viral almost a year ago, I had not heard of it until Hunter was sentenced. And when I did read about it, I saw many horrifying comments by total strangers condemning Ms. Hunter’s character and wishing death and ruin on her. I thought it was extreme.
And then, when I watched the video of Hunter’s court proceeding, I heard Ms. Hunter express remorse and saw her tears. I heard the anguish in her voice as she described what her life has been like since Ms. Sprague decided to put her on blast over an incident that, frankly, wasn’t her business. There were also circumstances in Hunter’s case that I felt mitigated the situation somewhat. She was under a good deal of stress due to a house fire, as well as slow progress in building a home for her family. While yelling at a clerk is not good behavior, customer service is part of the clerk’s job, and dealing with irate and dissatisfied people, unfortunately, comes with the territory.
The judge in Ms. Hunter’s case said that she hadn’t shown any regard for her “victim”, Heather Sprague. But I did hear Debra Hunter apologize to Ms. Sprague and acknowledge that she had faced troubles in the wake of their unfortunate meeting. I saw Ms. Hunter cry, and it appeared her tears were real. In fact, the judge even told Hunter to calm down on more than one occasion. And although the judge didn’t recognize Ms. Hunter’s contrition, to me it was pretty apparent and honest. She also outright stated that she was ready to accept whatever punishment Judge James A. Ruth handed down. That makes her VERY DIFFERENT from Jenna Ryan, who seems to think she shouldn’t at all be held accountable for her actions at the Capitol on January 6th.
Many people in the comment sections were labeling Debra Hunter as a narcissist. They based that label on a story about how she’d behaved on that one day at Pier 1, when she was being videoed during a stressful moment. Jenna Ryan, on the other hand, has actively engaged in promoting her story, has told egregious lies (mainly about her level of financial and romantic success), and has brazenly claimed that she’s owed special treatment for her illegal actions.
To me, Ryan’s behavior is highly narcissistic. Hunter’s behavior, while rude and potentially dangerous (but ultimately not physically harmful), is not necessarily narcissistic. Hunter was once caught on video melting down, as many of us do from time to time. Ryan, on the other hand, was gleefully and willingly showing herself committing crimes and fully expecting to get away with her illegal actions. She has engaged the press with much gusto, and was all over Twitter insisting that she did nothing wrong.
I took the time to watch most of Debra Hunter’s court proceeding, which is posted on YouTube. I doubt most of the people condemning her and wishing death and destruction on her family did much more than read and react to headlines. And I felt badly for her, because what happened wasn’t just affecting her personally. It was affecting a whole lot of other people who were completely innocent– everyone from her children, who weren’t being allowed to play with their friends, to people in Florida who happen to share a name similar to Debra Hunter’s and were getting death threats! By contrast… Jenna Ryan has eagerly reached for the spotlight, like true narcissists are wont to do, so I doubt many innocent people are being mistaken for her in her community. A lot of us know who she is by now, and would recognize her in a parking lot or a store… especially since she probably doesn’t wear face masks.
It’s true, I’m not a big fan of jailing people, particularly for minor crimes in which no one has been seriously injured or sickened, or there’s been little property damage. Debra Hunter wasn’t infected with COVID-19, so her meltdown last year didn’t make anyone sick… except for the fact that deliberately coughing on people, especially when there’s frank spittle involved, is really gross. I think it’s right that she pay a fine and reimburse Ms. Sprague for her rapid COVID-19 test. I think it’s right that she seek help from a therapist and perhaps do community service and serve probation. Jail is overkill, in my view.
Now… Jenna Ryan probably would benefit from a stint in jail. I think she deserves it, if only because she’s been so delusional and offensive. But I don’t necessarily think this incident should ruin her life… nor would I be angry if she didn’t go to jail. We have way too many people locked up in the United States, and a lot of people are getting rich off of other people’s misery. I think it’s time we came up with something more productive, less expensive, and better for society.
But that’s all probably a pipe dream… so I’m going to close now, and go have breakfast. And I hope this post is a satisfying one for those who come in through the back door of my blog.
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