Solidarity With Tondalo Hall: A Statement from Love & Protect
Love & Protect condemns the denial of Tondalo Hall’s petition for clemency by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. We call on Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin to pardon and release Tondalo Hall, and to issue a statement denouncing the parole board’s unmerciful decision. With the opening of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month today, we call on the Oklahoma justice system to reform its understanding of domestic violence, and we call on the Oklahoma legislature to reform the “failure to protect” laws that too frequently punish and incarcerate victims.
In 2004, Tondalo Hall took her baby son to the hospital for care, where doctors found he had internal injuries, as did her toddler daughter. Hall said that she and her children had suffered violent verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her boyfriend, Robert Braxton, Jr, which he admitted. Braxton was sentenced to only two years, and has been free since 2006. Hall, in contrast, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for “failure to protect” her children from Braxton’s violence. Last Wednesday, September 23, 2015, the Oklahoma Prison Parole Board denied her petition for clemency by a vote of 5-0, giving no explanation and leaving Hall to remain in prison until she can seek parole in 2030.
Tondalo Hall was criminalized for her partner’s violence against her and her children. She has spent years behind bars while suffering the continued trauma of separation from her children and family, while the abuser himself walks free. Hall committed no violence against her children, and sought medical help to save them. At her hearing this week, the parole board shamed her for her inability to protect her children from her abuser, overlooking the shame and fear that haunted Hall as a victim of violence. We contend that the continued separation of Hall from her children is violence by the state against her and her children.
The day after Hall’s petition was denied, the state of Wisconsin opted not to pursue charges against Cierra Finkley for fighting back against her ex-boyfriend in defense of herself and her child, which resulted in his death. This announcement came in part due to public pressure led by the Young Gifted and Black Coalition, and the increasing national attention to the many cases of Black women caught between the violence of their abusers and the violence of the state. We encourage the state of Oklahoma to take Wisconsin’s decision as an example of justice for their future conduct.
We stand in solidarity with Tondalo Hall and her family. We ask the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board: when will compassion, mercy, and respect for the selfhood of Black women guide your actions? Whose lives are made better by Hall’s continued incarceration?
With Love and Solidarity,
Love & Protect