Felicity Huffman got 14 days for paying $15,000 to have her daughter’s SAT scores boosted, or as a Hollywood starlet might say with a legitimate SAT vocabulary word, augmented.
Huffman could have just gone the legal route and paid for legit exam prep classes. But then her daughter would have had to do some work. And a high score would not be guaranteed.
Enter Huffman’s White privilege. Not only was she able to afford the exam prep. It allowed her daughter to skip the real work of learning. She could have the scores fixed. She was paying for a “sure thing.”
And when Huffman was finally sentenced, her skin color combined to make her even more privileged. Uber-privileged.
That’s why many people are still upset about the sentencing of Huffman, the prime time star in the Operation Varsity Blues scandal. Fourteen days? That’s it?
Immediately, stories of people of color like Crystal Mason surfaced.
Because of Trump Suck– the sound of the dwindling news hole being swallowed up by the inanities and incompetence of the current White House resident—you probably haven’t heard much about Mason’s ongoing case in Texas.
Mason is an African American woman who served time as a convicted felon in a federal prison before she was granted early release in 2016. When November came that election year, Mason cast her ballot. But because she wasn’t on the voter rolls, she did so with a provisional ballot.
Technically, voting before her full release was against the law, though it wasn’t made clear to Mason at the polls. It didn’t even matter that her vote never counted. It was provisional and never affected any outcome. Prosecutors still convicted her as an example of voter fraud, and a judge sentenced Mason to five years in prison.
Mason’ appeal was last week, and now her fate really is up to how badly a Republican-based court wants to scare poor people of color from voting and participating in democracy.
When you think about Huffman’s 14 days, think about Mason’s five years. It alters any sympathy for Huffman, no matter how contrite Huffman may be. She may not deserve to have “the book thrown at her,” as they say.
But 14 days? Make them count.
Her lawyers want her placed in a women’s prison in Dublin, Calif., near Oakland, a suburban minimum security facility known as one of the cushiest in the country.
I have a better suggestion.
Chowchilla in Central California would be more fitting. It has a more diverse population. Minimum and maximum security. It’s the largest female correctional facility in the U.S. (Now that’s something Huffman could brag about). And it houses the state’s only death row for women. It’s a hard place. And probably a good test of Huffman’s acting skills.
Can she get along with fellow inmates like Angelina Rodriguez, who was arrested for her husband Frank’s murder in 2001. It’s a somewhat infamous case profiled in at least three network true crime series.
Huffman would have someone to talk to about TV. Or at least help her attach to a “posse” for protection. Fourteen days will just give her a taste of a new world. And she deserves that. Huffman used her privilege all too well. She should be sent somewhere where the lack of privilege has real consequences. For Huffman, it’s like reverse affirmative action. Chowchilla would be an eye opener for her. And far more useful than14 days in cushy Dublin.
Am I being mean? Unfair? Think of justice broadly. Think of Crystal Mason, freed early from a Texas prison, working full time at a bank, going to night classes in beauty school, and skipping it one night to vote in Nov. 2016.
She didn’t know that innocently taking part in democracy could get her five years. That’s why Huffman’s fourteen days should be spent in Chowchilla, not Dublin.
Remember Crystal Mason.
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator.