After Robert Braxton Jr. was convicted of beating his girlfriend’s children, he was sentenced in 2006 to probation and two years already served in jail while awaiting trial for the abuse, which included choking, punching and breaking the femur and ribs of a 3-month-old daughter.
The children’s mother, Tondalao Hall, was never accused of hurting her kids. But her penalty was much harsher: 30 years in prison for failing to tell authorities about the abuse. She could be incarcerated into her 50s and miss their childhoods altogether while their abuser moved on long ago.
The state’s Pardon and Parole Board recently declined to shorten the sentences of Hall and three other women with similar stories, alarming women’s rights groups and bringing attention to failure-to-protect laws in Oklahoma and a few other mostly conservative states that critics say can lead to harsher punishments for abused and frightened mothers than for child abusers themselves.
“That’s a pattern that we’re seeing all too often,” said Megan Lambert, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, which represents Hall, who she says Braxton also beat and psychologically abused her.