Shaquanda Cotton

Girl alleges sex abuse in Texas prison

I am late making this post but I would be remiss in not sharing this article in case you are not aware of this sickening situation. This is the story of the 14 year-old white girl in Paris, Texas who was given probation for arson when 14 year-old Shaquanda Cotton who is black was sentenced to up to seven years in prison for shoving a hall monitor.

I won't attempt to paraphrase the words of Chicago Tribune correspondent Howard Witt; please read the post in its entirety.,0,333895.story


Girl alleges sex abuse in Texas prison

White teen whose sentence led to uproar over racial disparities says guard molested her

By Howard Witt 

Tribune senior correspondent

October 9, 2007


When the Chicago Tribune published the story last March of Shaquanda Cotton, the 14-year-old black girl from Paris, Texas, who was imprisoned for shoving a hall monitor at her high school, the article quickly provoked a national civil rights scandal because of apparent racial disparities in the way justice was administered in the small east Texas town.

Shaquanda had no prior arrest record, and the hall monitor was not seriously injured. Yet the teenager was convicted in March 2006 of assault and sentenced by Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville to prison for up to 7 years.

Just three months earlier, Superville sentenced a 14-year-old white girl, convicted of the more serious crime of arson, to probation.

The furor that erupted over the disparity in how the two girls were treated prompted Texas authorities to release Shaquanda from prison three weeks after the Tribune article appeared.

This is the story of what happened to the white girl in that saga.

It appears she has suffered a fate far worse than Shaquanda's.

The emotionally troubled teenager, who has been diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder, was sent to the same youth prison in Brownwood, Texas, where Shaquanda was incarcerated, because she subsequently violated her probation twice.

While there, the teenager -- whom the Tribune is not identifying -- was allegedly sexually molested by a male prison guard, who then threatened her to keep her quiet, according to documents and witness statements examined by the Tribune. The girl self-mutilated her arms with a knife, carving the word "Why" into her flesh, her mother said.

Last spring, the girl attempted suicide by swallowing a handful of pills prescribed for another inmate. When a guard rushed into her cell to rescue her, authorities allege, the girl knocked the officer to the ground -- an assault that tacked another 6 months onto her sentence.

Even worse, officials at the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex knew of allegations that the guard was sexually abusing the girl but did not remove him from contact with female inmates until four months later.

Continue reading "Girl alleges sex abuse in Texas prison" »

Texas Justice: Shaquanda Cotton’s Conviction Stands

In March of this year, Chicago Tribune journalist, Howard Witt, reported the case of a 14 year-old Black girl who had been convicted for up to seven years for shoving an employee at her Paris, Texas public school. Details of disparate disciplinary practices and decisions by the Texas judicial system mobilized bloggers to bring attention to the case of Shaquanda Cotton and demand her release. There were protest marches and protests in cyberspace. Talk shows featured the situation and Shaquanda was eventually released.

Last week, the 6th Court of Appeals in Texarkana upheld Shaquanda's conviction and didn't address the racial disparity in treatment of students and sentencing. Understandably disappointed, hopefully Shaquanda and her mother will continue to fight this.,1,4706376.story?track=rss

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Now, 15 years old, Shaquanda Cotton was released from the Texas Youth Correctional facility where she spent the last year of her life for shoving a teachers aide at her school. Prior to her release, Shaquanda's plight took a life of its own via hundreds of internet bloggers throughout the world.

How a child could be adjudicated up to seven years for such an incident where the adult was not injured is shameful and embarrassing not only to the people of Paris, Texas but to the entire United States. Some who choose to deny the racial bias displayed in this case have been proven wrong when Shaquanda's situation and the plight of other Black students in that county is under federal investigation.

Moreover, Shaquanda was confined to a facility that is now under investigation of sexual abuse by at least one guard. He has since resigned.

Please check the Chicago Tribune for Howard Witt's coverage and update on Shaquanda's release.

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Diversity Inc covers Shaquanda's plight

Here is coverage of Shaquanda Cotton’s plight by Diversity Inc magazine. The more her story is told, the better chance for her release and an unbiased investigation of the Paris public schools.

Shaquanda Cotton's Sentencing Exemplifies Rehabilitation Gone Bad
By Yoji Cole

Sentencing a 14-year-old to seven years in prison for shoving a school hall monitor doesn't sound fair. That the girl in question was sentenced by a judge who three months earlier sentenced a 14-year-old white girl convicted of arson to probation seems criminal.

But that's the horrific predicament Shaquanda Cotton faces—seven years in the Texas Youth Commission (TYC). Cotton was convicted of assaulting a public servant because she shoved a 58-year-old hall monitor at Paris High School.

"Race played a major factor in this case because if Shaquanda was a young, white female there is no way they would allow such a heightened charge to go forward," says Gary Bledsoe, an Austin, Texas, attorney and president of the NAACP Texas branch. "Even if you take what the teacher's aide said to be true ... all she said was that Shaquanda lightly pushed her ... you're telling me that's a felony?"

Paris has a bloodied history when it comes to race. The city, with a population of 26,000 (Census 2000 counted 73 percent white, 22 percent black, 4 pecent Latino, 0.95 percent Native American and 0.66 percent Asian American), was the site of several public lynchings of black Americans in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Paris public schools are also being investigated by the U.S. Education Department following repeated complaints that administrators discipline black students more frequently and harshly than they do white students. U.S. Education Department representatives confirmed an investigation is under way but were unavailable for comment.

Currently, Cotton is being held at TYC, which is also under investigation for sexual and physical abuse of inmates. Moreover, the facility makes clear in its "Family Guide" for relatives of juveniles that "You may have heard about adult prisons, where once you 'do the time,' you go home. It does not work this way at TYC." That's because of TYC's "resocialization" program that the prison says "enhance[s] personal accountability of delinquent youth." Parents of incarcerated youth, however, report that the rule effectively keeps kids in prison indefinitely.

One of the rule's steps is to admit guilt in order to be considered for parole. But Cotton says she was defending herself from being hit by the hall monitor when she shoved her, so she doesn't believe she is guilty.

"She can't go from step one to step two until she admits guilt, so you have to swallow your beliefs or stand up for your principals," says Bledsoe, who added that Cotton's time in TYC has already been extended because she violated a resocialization rule. She had one more pair of socks than is allowed. "We're trying to get them to invalidate the rule," says Bledsoe.

Cotton's mother, Creola, reported that her daughter is in jail because she has protested and filed complaints against the school and police department. Prosecutors argued during the punishment phase of the trial that Creola Cotton is an unfit mother, according to reported a story on the district attorney's web site.

"Shaquanda came from a very structured home. She didn't run around; she didn't get out in the street; she didn't do drugs; she didn't drink alcohol; she didn't do any of those things because I didn't let her," Cotton was quoted as saying in the story. "The only reason that they could give that Shaquanda should be removed from my home is that I filed complaints against the school and the police department. So how does that make me an unfit parent?"

A spokesperson for the district attorney's office, Allan Hubbard, was not available to speak to, but in the story that appeared on the district attorney's web site, Hubbard was quoted as saying Cotton's case "is not a racial issue."

"There are people who commit crimes and there are people who do not agree with the way those crimes are handled and the process. This is not a racial issue with this office," Hubbard said in the story. "There will always be people who object to the level that we pursue something for prosecution."

Now Cotton's future rests in the hands of Bledsoe and others who have taken up her cause.

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FREE SHAQUANDA COTTON - Update #2: Worldwide Prayer, Sat. March 31st!

BlackAmericaWeb published Shaquanda’s story today. A march and rally calling for her immediate release are scheduled for next Tuesday. The event is organized by Citizens Concerned for Racial Equality and radio talk show host Rickey Smiley. Read more on the BlackAmericaWeb site.

On Saturday, March 31st from noon – 1 p.m. CST, gather all your prayer warriors to touch and agree and pray for Shaquanda’s immediate release. Wherever you are at that time, stop and pray for Shaquanda. Pray that Shaquanda Cotton’s mind, body and spirit are strengthened by this experience. Pray that Shaquanda truly knows the love of God and his awesome power. Pray that Shaquanda knows that angels have been sent to watch over her and protect her; she has nothing to fear. Let Shaquanda feel the love of many who lift her in spirit and bless her holy name. Amen.

Continue to spread the word about Shaquanda's ordeal.

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FREE SHAQUANDA COTTON – Update #1: Black or White, It's Just Wrong!

Check link below for contact information to help free Shaquanda Cotton from prison. Please spread the word.

Vanessa: Unplugged: FREE SHAQUANDA COTTON – Update #1: Black or White, It's Just Wrong!

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I am pulling this information directly from a couple of spots in the blogosphere. I am not taking the time to try to re-word the info or put my slant on the situation. That would require too much of my time and most important, it's not really necessary. Ayoung girl's life is at stake, please read this and take action.
Remember Genarlow Wilson and Cory Maye? FREE SHAQUANDA COTTON! When will the madness end?
Please spread the word!
the one thing i love most about reading online is the ability to find little nuggets of information or interesting stories without having to flip through a giant stack of recyclable paper with messy ink. yesterday was no exception when i stumbled upon a story in the tribe (may need free signup) about a small town in texas that seems to relish in its violent racial past.
paris, texas is the home of the Paris Fairgrounds, a stage where thousands of white ’spectators’ would gather to burn and lynch blacks as if at some sort of carnival. today, it is a highly segregated town that has implicity dared anyone to question how it chooses to treat blacks that live in the area.
the facts: “black parents have filed at least a 12 discrimination complaints against the school district with the federal Education Department, asserting that their children, who constitute 40 percent of the district’s nearly 4,000 students, were singled out for excessive discipline”
the paris public schools are under investigation by the U.S. Education Department 19-year-old white man, convicted last july of criminally negligent homicide for killing a 54-year-old black woman and her 3-year-old grandson with his truck, was sentenced in Paris to probation
judge chuck superville sentenced a 14-year-old white girl, convicted of arson for burning down her family’s house, to probation
a 14-year-old black freshman, shaquanda cotton, shoved a 58-year-old teacher’s aide at paris high school in a dispute over entering the building before the school day had officially begun. she was tried in march 2006 in the town’s juvenile court, convicted of “assault on a public servant” and sentenced by the same judge chuck superville to prison for up to 7 years, until she turns 21
yes, you read that last part right. i’ll let it sink in for a second.
so its 2007, one state is drafting formal legislation to apologize for slavery, and another is trying to flex its ‘dont mess with texas’ ego. while i complained earlier of how dismayed i was that some black blogs tend to be angry, this type of reality justifies that sentiment, and rightfully so. while i’ve never been the most articulate when it comes to expressing the complete shock of ‘in plain view’ racism, i can honestly say that this type of white arrogance and hate needs to be called out and handled swiftly. but how? the article mentions that naacp is on the case (rolling eyes), but i feel like more, MUCH MORE needs to be done.
if you get to the end of the article, the turmoil suffered by shaquanda in juvenile prison, where 95% of the offenders are repeat and violent (read: real crimes), has caused her to attempt suicide on her life 3 times. 3 times! a 14-year old, my little sister, is trying to kill herself because a racist bigot of a judge put her in prison for shoving someone. SHOVING!
so what can be done? link to this article. publicize this story. let’s see what blogging black can really do. go to the governor’s page at and let him know how you feel and how this is completely bullshit.
free shaquanda cotton. NOW!
i ask that some of my more articulate readers post a statement in the comments that we can all use on the contact form on the texas governor page.
[update 1]: looks like we’re getting the word spread. a fb group has started.
[update 2]: i started a thread over at topix. interesting pov’s, without question. i’ve also gotten word from a few friends that we have connections to ebony magazine and cnn that are being explored. keep spreading the word!
[update 3]: a site has been setup for her at

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