A bureaucratic mistake has led to the imprisonment of a Chicago area mother. For 49 days, Latasha Eatman was forced to leave her six-year-old son behind, missing both his birthday, and Thanksgiving. Eatman was held without bail after a series of miscommunications took place between several law enforcement agencies and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.
Back in 1993, Eatman was arrested on minor marijuana possession charges. She was ordered by a judge to participate in a community service program, but was unsuccessful in her attempts to complete the service in a timely manner. The place where she had been ordered to work often had no work available for her when she arrived, or was closed. Eatman was excused from her probation by a judge, who was satisfied that Eatman had made enough honest attempts to perform her duties for the state. That should have put an end to her legal adversity, but it didn’t stop there.
22 years after being excused by a judge, Eatman was enduring a routine day at work when police came in to investigate her place of employment for possible illegal cigarette sales. The police ran Eatman’s name through their databases, which showed an outstanding warrant for her failure to complete community service. Eatman was arrested and spent ten days in jail prior to seeing a judge. When Eatman appeared before the court, the judge did not believe that she had satisfied the conditions of her probation from years prior. Eatman was held an additional 29 days without bond. Bond ineligibility is commonly reserved for murderers and flight risks, not someone with Eatman’s history.
A chief officer from the Cook County Sherriff’s Office, Cara Smith, ordered an audit of first-time offenders who were locked up in their jail. After Eatman’s case was given a thorough review, Smith furiously stormed the prosecutor’s office. Eatman was released the next day, but had the audit not been performed, Eatman could have spent even more time behind bars because of the bureaucratic mistake.
Eatman tried to conceal her whereabouts from her son, telling him she was away at “big girl school.” She is now working overtime to recuperate from the expenses she incurred while she was locked up with no ability to earn income. The criminalization of marijuana possession is on track to become a thing of the past, but the circumstances leading to Eatman’s arrest leave the criminal justice system in question. It is unacceptable for citizens to be locked up because of an egregious clerical error. Bureaucratic errors with zero accountability from authorities goes to show that citizens are subject to systemic inhumanity.