The GEM Debate:
Woman Uses Craigslist To Find Driver For Son: Is It A Crime?
Have you ever used Craigslist? I used it once 10 years ago when I was moving from Los Angeles back to my hometown of Gary, Indiana, to get married. I shipped a lot of things and the rest was going to have to fit in my Dodge Neon, which means I couldn’t travel with much—certainly not furniture.
I turned to Craigslist to get it off my hands, but I felt funny about the whole thing. I was basically letting perfect strangers into my apartment to view and pick up my stuff. I made myself feel better with the knowledge that I only had a few more days before I was leaving Los Angeles. And, really, I didn’t have a better way to get rid of my furniture and make a little money.
Craigslist is one of the best ways to buy, sell, and trade goods and services at pretty reasonable rates on the Internet. But, it can also be a dangerous place. Which makes you wonder why a Georgia mother thought it was a good idea to turn to Craigslist to find someone to take her 9-year-old son to his grandmother’s house in Florida.
A little backstory: A Gainesville, Georgia, man posted an ad on Craigslist, offering to split the cost of driving to the Sarasota, Florida, area. Shelia Sherrie Joyner, of Marietta, Georgia, answered the ad, saying she wanted to send her son to visit his grandmother. They communicated via text only—there were no phone calls or face-to-face meetings first. When the man found out the boy was 9, he contacted authorities.
Joyner was arrested after a baby sitter—not Joyner herself—arrived with the boy at the drop-off point last Friday. She was held on charges of contributing to the deprivation of a minor and other unrelated charges.
Related: Ask Rene: Stranger Danger
I wouldn’t let a stranger walk my dog around the block—and I don’t even have a dog. Letting a stranger take an eight-hour road trip with one of my children is simply unthinkable. Maybe Joyner’s son would have been fine, but that’s not a gamble I would be willing to make.
Having said that, Joyner shouldn’t have been arrested. Her choice was profoundly stupid, yes. I can think of at least a half-dozen ways that endeavor could have ended very badly, but Joyner did not commit a crime. It appears that after the man contacted the police to let them know what was going on, they told him to meet the mom and her son at the drop-off point, at which time they intended to nab her. Joyner was lucky in the sense that the man wasn’t a rapist and/or murderer who intended to harm her child.
I don’t have more than a basic understanding of the law, but “contributing to the deprivation of a minor” sounds vague to me. It’s a subjective term and makes me think it could be used anytime someone parents his or her children in a way the rest of us would not. I have a problem with that because it makes every parent a potential criminal. We all do things to our children that other people find objectionable. It doesn’t make us criminals.
Instead of setting up a sting operation, the police could have talked to Joyner. They could have lectured her about the dangers of what she was doing. They could have offered to help by giving other options. It’s hard to say because we don’t know the circumstances surrounding Joyner’s decision. What the police didn’t have to do was arrest her, taking her away from her child and further contributing to his deprivation.
People use Craigslist to find day care and other childcare services. There is no law that says people cannot find a ride for their children, even strangers, no matter how misguided that choice is. Until there is a law—and that’s a slippery slope I don’t want to go down—Joyner did nothing wrong. We can agree it was moronic, but we can’t legally call it a crime.
Most of you in GEM Nation will probably agree that Joyner’s plan was foolish, but what, if any, punishment is appropriate in this situation? Share your thoughts below.