After her case ignited a national debate on how the justice system treats women and girls of color who claim self-defense, Bresha Meadows is finally free.
Meadows, 16, was just 14 when she used the gun her abusive father used to threaten her and her siblings to fatally shoot him in the head. At the time, her family claimed that Jonathan Meadows, 41, was aggressive and used verbal and physical violence against them.
But even as the young girl’s mother, Brandi Meadows, called her a hero for killing the man who would beat her ruthlessly in front of their children, prosecutors wanted to try her as an adult, charging the girl with aggravated murder. Thankfully, prosecutors didn’t have their way, and Meadows was tried as a child.
In May 2017, she was sentenced to a year in juvenile detention, six months at a mental health facility, and two years of probation after she pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. The judge also ruled that her record would be clean once she reached adulthood.
On Sunday, the girl completed the time she was ordered to spend at the health facility and is now back in her family’s care.
“I believe that she saved all of us,” her mother said about Meadows taking her father’s life, calling her child her family's hero.
According to the girl’s attorney, Meadows is the real victim in this story.
“She lived a life no child, no adult, no human being should ever have to endure,” attorney Ian Friedman said in court.
“She grew up in an environment where every adult failed her. … This did not have to happen,” he added.
According to the group behind #FreeBresha, before the girl took matters into her own hands, the system failed her for not helping her escape domestic violence. Once she was arrested, the system failed her again.
Welcome home Bresha! So thrilled that after two years #BreshaMeadows is finally home. Love & solidarity to all survivors of violence & victims of the #AbusetoPrisonPipeline. We will never stop fighting for your visibility & your freedom. #FreeBresha pic.twitter.com/xjb1pRZM5n— rights4girls (@rights4girls) February 5, 2018
The rate of black girls facing prosecution and incarceration is disproportionately high, with girls who experienced violence at home accounting for 84 percent of kids in the juvenile justice system.
While we’re glad Meadows was finally released, her story reminds us that there are countless others like her who are never able to get the help that they need.
Maybe her story will help change this reality.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Flickr user Joe Gratz