The judicial system seems to support the unfair use of affluenza. Judge Jean Boyd known as the “affluenza” judge allegedly lets rich white kids go free while she sentences poor black kids more severely for lesser crimes. The judicial system allowed Ethan Couch to avoid jail time after killing four people in a drunken stupor because he was lucky enough to catch the rich kid’s disease otherwise known as affluenza.
This same judge didn’t even consider affluenza when she sentenced a 14-year-old black kid to a juvenile detention center for 10 years after he punched a man who died after falling to the ground and hitting his head on the pavement. Just like Couch, he admitted to punching the man, but like Couch he had no intentions of killing that day. The message this sends is if a poor black kid kills one man accidentally he’ll get locked down but if a rich white kid kills four people, even accidentally, he’ll walk free.
The judge did society a disservice, not to mention the families of these victims that are still suffering. Not only did 16-year-old Couch take the lives of four individuals but he stole the alcohol that caused the crime. Why can’t poor blacks catch this disease? How much money will they need to steal in order to afford affluenza? Inquiring minds would love to know because as it stands all roads are pointing to the judicial system using affluenza unfairly.
The real question is where did affluenza come from? The legal representation for Couch claimed affluenza occurs when a person becomes too wealthy to understand the consequences of their actions. If it works in the converse it seems it should work in the reverse. Why can’t a person be too poor to understand the consequences of their actions?
Black kids from low-income families often commit crimes that are the result of multiple disadvantages such as: neglect, racism, abuse and poverty to name a few. If they can’t use these proven adverse situations as an excuse to commit crimes how did affluenza manage to find its way to the satisfactory excuse roster? Both of these should be considered acceptable “diseases” or neither should make the cut.
A study released recently by The Sentencing Project, an activist group for juvenile sentencing reform, supports that the majority of juveniles sentenced to life without parole are black males in the United States. The study reveals that 97 percent of these are men and 60 percent are black. Is affluenza a racist disease that avoids blacks who have less income or does the judicial system have the problem? It seems that the price for the vaccine to treat the affluenza disease varies by income; jail time for poor and probation for rich.
Many would argue the issue Couch’s case seems to point to about mental illness has no fortitude. A history with the lack of parental consequences assumes that knowledge of the law is not enough to deter people from criminal acts; this makes no sense.
Even if Couch’s parents did not teach him that inappropriate behavior results in negative consequences doesn’t mean he could not have learned this in other areas of his life. Many theories support that although Couch’s wealth may have shielded him from usual consequences of certain behavior is not a clear indicator that he hasn’t experienced consequences from outside influences somewhere during his life.
On the flip side if this were true, a poor teen which lacked the appropriate discipline in his or her life because their parents were working, overtime or all the time, just to feed and house them would not understand the consequences of their actions either. Perhaps these same children would have gotten away with unlawful or unacceptable behavior in their past because they weren’t supervised as society would have expected. History has proven that this would not afford them the opportunity to be less responsible for their actions outside of their home environment.
The judicial system sent Couch to a private rehabilitation facility and the poor black kid to a public juvenile detention facility. The message that’s being sent, whether intentionally or not, is that one’s wealth can alleviate negative consequences of criminal behavior. It appears that the judge’s cure or vaccine for affluenza is simply more of the same.
The way this case was handled seems to support that affluenza was used as a diagnosis to explain away Couch’s criminal behavior and responsibility. According to the ruling of this case, young people who can afford to catch the affluenza disease suffer from a developmental disorder or psychological deficit.
The problem is affluenza is not a mental disorder and to date it has not been confirmed by a mental health professional or organization. Rather, the inclusion of affluenza in this case comes across as a fabricated diagnosis created to serve a specific purpose.
The judge’s sentence, which was extremely different from many who have taken the lives of others while driving drunk, has caused a public outrage. The judicial systems has afforded Couch a greater possibly of a successful life and career while many poor black kids are subjected to tougher sentencing and a lasting criminal history.
The judicial system seems to support the unfair use of affluenza. While the rich teen practically got a pass for stealing alcohol and killing four people the average poor teen gets harsher treatment, often including jail time.
The focus of this article is not the actual sentencing rather the lack of fairness within the judicial system.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)