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  Debtor's Prison is Alive and Well

The Massachusetts News
December 21,  2001

Debtor's Prison is Alive and Well
More Should Go to Jail in Protest
by Mark Charalambous

Those concerned with the civil liberty implications of war tribunals should
refocus their attention to matters judicial closer to home. New York Times
columnist Anthony Lewis decries the potential for panels of as few as
three jurists who have been empowered to determine life and death.

But in our family courts, a single justice acts as judge, jury, and executioner
in matters that, while not usually as final, can often be perceived as worse
than death for those on the losing side.

John Flaherty, citizen, father and law-abiding physics professor, presently
receives his mail at the Plymouth County House of Correction where he is
serving a five-month sentence for contempt of court.

Middlesex Probate & Family Court Judge Beverly Boorstein sentenced him
for refusing to pay an alleged child support arrearage, which supposedly goes
back six years but was manufactured at a hearing just several months ago.

Apparently we have become desensitized to incarcerating men in what should
rightfully be called "debtor's prison." Indeed, the ending of debtor's prison
can be considered a milestone on humanity's path to the free society.  But
debtor's prison is alive and well, functioning on a daily basis in our nation's
divorce courts, which have become virtual feminist tribunals prosecuting fathers
for crimes of "the patriarchy."

Jailed Without Trial

John Flaherty was sentenced to jail October 1 without a trial. Judge Boorstein
didn't even bother to write a Finding of Fact. But Flaherty is not your average
non-custodial father. Since the legal travails ensuing from the breakdown of his
marriage began, he has made a second career out of learning the law and
teaching other non-custodial fathers how to defend themselves. Without the
"Finding," he was able to forestall the jail sentence for several weeks until
Boorstein complied with an Appeals court order to produce "detailed findings."

Such is the brazen attitude of judges who don't even bother to provide the
appearance of due process in their prosecution of fathers, until forced to do

The Flaherty case docket is not for the timid. It has more twists and turns than
a David Mamet thriller. Though he is confident that his appeal of the sentence
will succeed, that trial won't come before the expiration of his sentence.
Unlike defendants for other crimes who are typically freed on probation before
the full sentence is completed, Flaherty expects to serve the full five months.
Non-payment of child support, like the absurd "no-contact" violations of
domestic abuse protection orders, is a gender crime.

Because of the feminization of the courts, such "crimes" are treated more
seriously than conventional ones.

For robbery, aggravated assault, homicide, and perhaps even flying airplanes
into buildings, defendants are assumed innocent until proven guilty, provided
legal counsel at taxpayer expense, and given every consideration to guarantee
that their civil rights aren't violated in the process of ascertaining their
Non-custodial fathers should be so lucky.

Worse Than Racial Profiling

Before September 11, the hottest issue for the self-appointed
social-justice watchdogs was racial profiling. Completely ignored is the
far more pervasive and institutionalized gender-profiling in the
application of domestic relations law. But those of the chattering class
only recognize injustice where it's politically correct to do so.

Parents who fail to comply with a court order are held to two different
standards based solely on their sex. Women are not jailed for domestic
transgressions -- men are.

In identical situations, justice takes a predictably different course for
female defendants. Can anyone conceive of a father who murdered his five
children being afforded sympathy from any quarter, as has Andrea Yates
from the National Organization of Women?

Three decades of feminization have so warped our expectations that no one
blinks an eye when judges turn to female plaintiffs in child support cases
and actually ask them if they want their ex-husbands jailed.

But regardless of the corruption of justice in divorce courts, what about
the ethical questions of non-payment of child support? Is it appropriate
to jail non-custodial parents for willful failure to pay?

Perhaps reasonable people can disagree on what to do with fathers who
intentionally abandon their children. But when we are considering
involved, loving fathers who raised and provided for their children when
the family was intact and wish to continue having a meaningful parental
relationship with their children, we need a reality check.

The idea that such fathers should have their children forcibly taken away
from them, often with access to them severely restricted or terminated, as
well as being criminalized in the process, and that they should then be
forced to pay exorbitant amounts of so-called "child support" to the
mother, is simply perverse.

The Massachusetts Child Support Guideline provides for the highest awards
in the nation. Under the Guideline, child support has become an entitlement
for women -- an incentive for single motherhood. The Guideline provides for
up to 40% of the non-custodial father's gross income to be transferred to the
mother with not a shred of accountability, not from the mother nor from the
Department of Revenue, which now attaches wages by default.

More Fathers Should Go to Jail

Everyone knows some poor guy who is paying a ridiculous amount of money
each week to some woman who doesn't even let him see his children. The
child support regime in Massachusetts is responsible for much injustice
and suffering, all done in "the best interests of the children."

Whose best interests are really served when women turn their children
against their fathers, while bleeding them for every penny they can milk
out of them? Do the children benefit? And what message is being delivered
to these children?

Girls are being taught that men can be easily manipulated with the
complicity of the government.

And what's the message for boys? Considering their reeducation by
feminists (of both sexes) in the classroom to disdain their own
masculinity, it should come as no surprise that what they see happening to
their fathers serves as a powerful lesson in their emasculation.

Fathers who believe that they are doing the right thing by abiding by
their outrageous child support orders are not helping their children. They
are validating the government bean-counters' definition of "fatherhood,"
which promotes single-parent maternal households -- the most dangerous
environment for children. It causes the destruction of the father-child
relationship and ultimately undermines the biological nuclear family
itself. This harms not only their own children, but also all children and
by extension society.

It is not only acceptable for non-custodial fathers to follow Flaherty's
example and resist the child support regime even at the expense of their
own freedom, it is their true child support obligation.

Mark Charalambous is one of the founders of the Fatherhood Coalition.

Copyright 2001 Massachusetts News, Inc.
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