I received news about this in my inbox yesterday (thanks Denva). A few people have already written very effectively on it, so I'll just relay the facts and then include some links.
This is the blog for Shaquanda Cotton. Her "About Me" profile reads:
I am a 14-year-old black freshman who shoved a hall monitor at Paris High School in a dispute over entering the building before the school day had officially begun and was sentenced to 7 years in prison. I have no prior arrest record, and the hall monitor--a 58-year-old teacher's aide--was not seriously injured. I was tried in March 2006 in the town's juvenile court, convicted of "assault on a public servant" and sentenced by Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville to prison for up to 7 years, until I turn 21. Just three months earlier, Superville sentenced a 14-year-old white girl, convicted of arson for burning down her family's house, to probation.
This blows my mind. I can't even comprehend how a judge could send any child to [youth] prison for seven years over pushing. And it happened over a year ago, without any corrections, or alternative resolutions. I think this blog has an apt response in comparing it to a lynching. The wiki on Paris, Texas notes:
Paris was the site of the lynching of Henry Smith in 1893, the first blatantly public, actively promoted lynching of a southern black by a large crowd of southern whites. 10,000 people gathered around to cheer while he has tortured and then burned to death.
So this small town has big history, and in this Chicago Tribune article, it sounds like the last place you want to visit if you're a black person.
But the injustice here certainly transcends race. The racial aspect makes it that much sadder, but to put any child without a criminal history in jail for SEVEN year is beyond belief. My keyboard doesn't have enough capital letters and exclamation points to properly underscore the caliber of injustice.
Additionally, the author of the Tribune story, Howard Witt, followed up with this piece discussing the overwhelming response to the article (originally published March 12th), and how it reflects on both new media and newspapers.
But Shaquanda is still in prison, and it's been a year, so clearly more voices need to be heard. Why not yours?
Here's the contact page for Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Here's the page (one of two so far) on Shaquanda's blog with info on both the judge and governor.
Comments, notes, letters, contacts ... I'm sure it all helps.