Imagine that you are a mother going about your business, just having a regular day. You are struggling to keep up with the demands of an active toddler and a helpless newborn, maybe worried about the dishes that are piling up, or the laundry. Then out of the blue the police show up and arrest you for a crime you did not commit, taking your children away from you in the process. It sounds like something out of a horror movie, but the truth is this happens to parents here in America more often than the authorities would like to admit. We, Robert and Kathleen Raskin, are shining a spotlight on these injustices today.
Studies have estimated that between 2/3 and 5% of all prisoners are innocent, with as many as 10,000 American citizens wrongfully convicted of serious crimes each year. According to the Innocence Project, over 200 women who have been exonerated in the U.S. Of those, 40% were charged with harming children or loved ones in their care. In 37% of those cases, it was eventually discovered that no crime was committed.
In one recent case a Broward County, Florida mother was arrested on charges of heroin trafficking in a case of mistaken identity. Investigators bungled the case and confused single mother Ashley Foster with another woman who had the same name. What began as a routine trip to Target with her toddler and newborn quickly spiraled into a waking nightmare. Foster was forced to listen as her 8-week-old screamed, and she was not permitted to feed or comfort him.
Ashley Foster’s children were removed from her custody, and child protective services was involved when the officers could not immediately find someone to take the children. This innocent mother spent seven days in jail before an officer interviewed her at the jail and realized they had the wrong person. The young mother lost her children and her job because of the mistake. Her children were eventually returned to her, but not her means to support them. Who will be held accountable?
Adding insult to injury, before returning her children to her, a Clermont County Job & Family Services investigator gave her home a 10-minute check before she was cleared for her children to be returned to her. Foster was cleared of all charges, but she was still subjected to a search and treated as though she were a suspect who had to earn her own children back before they were returned to her. Foster has retained the services of an attorney, and we hope she gets every penny that’s coming to her.
This case makes you wonder, when this has happened to other mothers, what was the outcome? Did they lose their children? Their jobs? Their homes? This could happen to any of us, and the possibility of it is frightening enough that we need to ask these questions.
Woman exonerated in son’s murder after 20 years.
Wrongfully convicted grandmother finally released from prison.