Homeless Mother in Bridgeport Sentenced to Jail

Lionel Medina, Staff Writer

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Many people would collectively agree on the fact that the U.S. justice system has its flaws, and a recently reported case could not make this any more concretely evident.

A 34-year-old homeless woman from Bridgeport, Connecticut sought to provide the best possible education for her six-year-old son, despite her situation.

In 2011 Tanya McDowell and her son Andrew were living out of a van, moving between homeless shelters, and also spent nights at an apartment in Bridgeport.

During her son’s school registration period for enrollment to a school in the Norwalk district, she documented her son’s babysitter’s address as opposed to her own. Superior Court Judge Frank Lannotti sentenced McDowell to five years in prison compounded with another sentence up to twelve years on two counts of the sale of narcotics from a previous charge.

The twelve-year sentence would be suspended upon five years served followed by five years of probation. 

McDowell pleaded guilty in a Norwalk court to charges of first-degree larceny and conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny for illegally enrolling her 6-year-old son in Norwalk public school despite not living there.

McDowell expressed her concerns and grievances with the case and its repercussions stating, “Who would have thought that wanting a good education for my son would put me in this predicament?

I have no regrets seeking a better education for him, I do regret my participation in this drug case.”

Based on the stipulations associated with the indictment and prison sentence, “stolen” education is a punishable offense in the eyes of the justice system.

This case has drawn residents and civil rights groups alike to protest the persecution against McDowell who was only attempting to provide a better education for her son.

However, Judge Lannotti emphatically prefaced the notion that the Norwalk school case and drug charges are independent cases, and that the drug charge is the main reason for the hearing in the first place.

The main impetus behind the protest efforts has been to expose the flaws of the city’s beleaguered school system and to decry for changes in state legislation that make it illegal for parents to send their children to schools in towns where they are not residents.

But support for McDowell soon dwindled after she was arrested by Bridgeport police and charged with selling marijuana and crack cocaine on two separate occasions to an undercover police officer outside her Dover Street home.