Four children lost their father and a woman lost her companion when Walter Lamer Scott was shot on April 4. The Wikipedia article on Mr. Scott notes that he had been repeatedly arrested for failure to pay child support. News articles linked to by the Wikipedia posting indicate that Scott was running away from the police officer who murdered him due to fears about being incarcerated for being behind on child support.
How common is it for an American to be on the wrong side of the law due to our child support system and how realistic were Scott’s fears? The “Post-Divorce Litigation” chapter of our book cites some statistics indicating that roughly 1 in 7 men who are ordered to pay child support will eventually be imprisoned. As they are being imprisoned for contempt of court rather than a criminal offense they are not entitled to an attorney nor do they enjoy a presumption of innocence.
The media coverage of the event stresses the fact that Mr. Scott was in conflict with the police due to his skin color. Yet they could equally have stressed that he was in conflict with our justice system due to the fact that he had children and, for whatever reason, was not living with their custodial parent(s).
This was a sad event, obviously, but I am not sure that it must be interpreted as a black-white event.
[What if Mr. Scott had lived in Europe? In most countries, the financial consequences of losing a custody lawsuit would likely have been a small fraction of what he had been ordered to pay here. In most countries he would not have been subject to imprisonment for failure to pay. (section 3.3 of this EU Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality report has a table of the coercive measures applied in different countries)]