Warren Hill is not a nice person. I would not want him living in my neighborhood. He is not in prison for one of the drug convictions that take too many, especially men of color living in poverty, from their communities. He is there because he has shown a callous willingness to kill other human beings. He murdered two brutally, his girlfriend with eleven gunshots, his cellmate with a nail-studded board. No one wants his presence in society. However, he does not deserve to die.
I read about his life. He grew up poor. He was abused. At least one parent’s ability to raise him was limited by substance abuse and dependence. His family failed him. It was obvious to his teachers that he could not understand the material for his grade level. He learned slower, more laboriously, than his schoolmates. However, I saw no indication that he got so much as tutoring to maximize his academic potential and options in life. He was born too early for special education. The schools failed him.
As an adult, Hill was in the military. They took a man with less cognitive ability than average who was raised with few examples of nonviolent interpersonal relationships and taught him violence. Military training does not a murderer make. Even combat veterans generally do not generally hurt civilians. However, it does make one better at any violence one chooses to perform by definition. The recruiter who likely came to know Hill’s limitations and something of his history but did not turn him away failed him. So did his commanding officers. He seems to have served in the Navy during peacetime. It would have been no great loss to the armed forces to let one man out when it became apparent he should not have been there.
In prison, he was not protected. According to a Guardian article, he lived in a dormitory. While the authorities did not recognize his vulnerability, other inmates did. Physically and sexually, he was mistreated as too many prisoners are. He may well have been lashing out at an abuser when he got his death sentence.
People with intellectual disabilities have moral culpability. They must be given the dignity of responsibility for their actions. Hill’s wrongdoing is ultimately on his own conscience, but society should recognize that its every institution failed him. Murder is wrong, but Hill was set up for a bad end. Then, his disability put him at a disadvantage in the courts. From birth, the people partly or wholly responsible to him and for his well-being did not help him. The arc of his life might have been diverted from this wretched course. No one stepped up.
Warren Hill is a murderer. He should be punished. Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is punishment enough. That would protect society from him, penalize him for monstrous acts, recognize that some small share of fault falls on innumerable others, and preserve his chance to reform. That would be justice. Given safe space within a prison, a useful task to perform, a bit of compassion, and perhaps whatever educational materials he can understand, he could become better than he is. It is a long shot, but society also has a debt to pay him. We should take into account that he never received his birthright. Every unwritten promise of the social contract went unfulfilled in his life.
I am especially leery of executing Warren Hill because I see intentionality in this. I suspect someone might have recognized his disability sooner if not for certain racial stereotypes of intelligence. I know poverty destroyed what little chance he had of getting help as a child in the 1960s. His socioeconomic status worked against him in the courts. I wonder if he would have received the death penalty if, all else equal, he had been white. It is possible, but, if we could make a bet and peer into a parallel universe for the answer, my money would be on ‘no.’ My gut says he would be serving a life sentence if he did not call up a specter, a caricature of black, male violence that has long haunted the South.
These are not the only reasons his life should be spared. Apart from the injustice of the situation, Georgia should not flout the law. The U.S. Supreme Court has not take the case, but they have already ruled the execution of people with intellectual disabilities unconstitutional. Whatever one’s opinion of the death penalty, there is nothing acceptable about this. It is immoral, illegal, and embarrassing. At favorite haunts in Boone, North Carolina this weekend, I may hide the car off the main drag. I would rather pretend to be from somewhere else than be seen with Georgia plates. If the Supreme Court does not intervene, if Governor Deal is silent, my adopted home will sink to a level of barbarism that will appall decent people the world over this coming Monday. It has already cropped up in foreign media. Georgia’s idea of justice is depriving a man who has hardly had anything of all he has left: his future, the opportunity to improve. Now, everyone knows.
Autistics, allies, disability advocates, and disability activists, State Representative Sanchez of Massachusetts has expressed approval of the Judge Rotenberg Center. He has brushed off attempts to question his support of the torture of children on American soil. We are invading his Facebook page tonight. Please participate. People with our labels are suffering on his watch. Innocent kids are shocked until their skin burns. He thinks this is a good idea. Show up. Be civil. Do not make threats. Post your own sentiments or links. Post late at night into the early morning hours. We want him to wake up to this. We want people to see it before his staff can take it down. Please signal boost this message. I hope to see you there.
Reports of such incidents should be “minuscule,” said Maureen Fitzgerald, director of disability rights at the Arc, which advocates for people with disabilities. Fitzgerald said when abuses occur, it’s usually because workers aren’t properly trained.
“They are put in situations where they’re not trained, they don’t have the support they need and things get out of control because they don’t know how to manage the kids, and they do whatever they can to keep everybody calm and safe … and that’s when people start getting hurt,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald’s organization is among several disability organizations seeking passage of a bill by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, that would prohibit the use of seclusion and allow restraints only in emergency situations and until the danger of serious bodily injury has passed. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., has a similar bill in the House. Legislation to address the issue sponsored by Miller passed in 2010 but failed to get out of the Senate.
So right now in my english class we’re doing a project on our values and life experiences or whatever. I’m not the kind of person to share much with people I hardly know, especially in real life. Regardless of this, I feel guilty that I originally didn’t plan on including anything person in my…
The authorities probably need to get involved. Beating any child is unacceptable. Striking an autistic child in the middle of a meltdown can only make things worse. Good luck with your project. It sounds like a great idea. I can empathize with some things you say about memories of your parents.
I did go to the cashier and ask if she had some sort of policy on that kind of thing, and she told me she already called the police and they were on their way when she saw it happening. If she hadn’t done that I would have called the police myself. Sorry I didn’t specify!
Thank you. That makes me less worried.
In Mercer County, Kentucky, nine year old Chris Baker, an Autistic student, was told by his special education aide to climb inside a gym ball bag for punishment to “control his autistic behavior” in mid-December 2011. He was placed in the bag with the drawstring tightened and left in the hallway in the school. When his mother, Sandra Baker, was called to the school to get her son, she demanded that he be removed from the bag right away. The teacher struggled to undo the drawstring, and Chris emerged sweaty and non-communicative. According to the teacher, this had been done several times over the last year, but Sandra didn’t know until this latest incident. While she met with state officials on Monday 19 December 2011 before a possible meeting with school officials, there is no guarantee that those meetings will prevent this kind of abuse from happening again — either to Chris or to other students.
Holy shit. This is screwed up.
There is a Facebook group you can join that sometimes offers more ways to help:
This is a petition in support of Emily Holcomb, a nonverbal, autistic girl recently arrested for resisting restraint:
We hereby affirm that
1.) Physical, mechanical, and chemical restraint of Autistic students…is abuse except in brief, temporary, and emergency interventions…
2.) All special education teachers ought to receive extensive education and training in appropriate interactions with and educational methods for Autistic students and students with other disabilities…
3.) All…teachers ought to receive at least basic awareness education and training in recognizing autism and other disabilities…either before beginning work as teachers or as continuing education credits in order to promote the best possible outcomes for all students;
4.) It is in the best interests of all educators, educational administrators, parents, and Autistic students and students with other disabilities to ensure the safety and well-being of all students…
5.) Filing felony criminal charges against an Autistic student or student with another disability in response…to tactile defensiveness, panic attacks, or a perceived or actual assault, is an inappropriate and unethical response to said actions;
And in accordance with our affirmations, we demand that the following actions be taken or started before the end of December 2012, with all due speed:
1.) That the teacher responsible for restraining Emily Holcomb for fifty-five minutes be dismissed from position…OR be required to successfully complete extensive continuing education professional training in interacting with and educating Autistic students and students with other disabilities…
2.) That all current and future special education teachers in Marion County be required to successfully complete…training in interacting with and educating Autistic students and students with other disabilities…
3.) That all… teachers in Marion County be required to successfully complete basic continuing education professional training in interacting with and educating Autistic students and students with other disabilities…
4.) That use of any type of restraint on any student be explicitly prohibited except in brief, temporary, and emergency interventions that are carefully and completely documented and reviewed with a full debriefing including the student and parent(s) or guardian(s) afterward.
Context: The teacher had physically restrained her for fifty-five minutes before the girl started hitting to try and get away. Apparently you can be criminally charged for resisting abuse.
Information on how to take action at Autistic Hoya [x].
CHEYENNE — State Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, faces a felony charge of abusing a disabled adult in Florida following a Nov. 23 arrest.
Nicholas, 54, was arrested in Boca Grande, Fla., while on vacation…