How Come No One Is Talking About Tabitha Gentry’s Mental Health?
Not a single banker, spectator or Wall Street fat cat has gone to prison for their role in causing the housing market crisis. A market crisis that damn near bankrupted the entire globe. But a single Black and possibly mentally ill woman will be spending more than three decades in prison for stealing the bank’s property. Some world we live in…
The woman I’m referring to is Tabitha Gentry. Last Tuesday she was sentenced to a total of 34 years in prison for squatting in a mansion worth $3 million, theft of property within the mansion she was squatting in, and assaulting two police officers. According to previous published reports on her case, the mother of six and self-proclaimed sovereign citizen, who also goes by the name of Abka Re Bey, occupied the 10,000 square foot, five bedroom and seven bath foreclosed property after filing transfer of inheritance paperwork with the Shelby County, Tennessee Register of Deeds in 2013. Although she was not related to the former tenants of the foreclosed home, Gentry insisted that she had “rightful claim” to the Shady Grove mansion because she is a Moorish National. As a Moorish National, she does not believe that she should be subjected to taxes, laws and other U.S. government mandated requirements. However, Shelby County felt differently and took action to evict her. It would take the assistance of a SWAT team to remove her from the property.
Currently, Gentry’s six children are in the custody of the foster care system. As reported back in 2013 by News One, it was Gentry’s 15-year-old daughter who made the call to police for intervention on behalf of her mother. According to News One, family members of Gentry said she had been behaving oddly for quite some time. Reports claimed that “the young woman, who family members say was a high school honor student/basketball player with a promising future, was reportedly introduced to the movement by someone she fell in love with. Soon after, she did an about-face, changing her name and appearance.”
Fourteen of those 34 years she was sentenced to come courtesy of a previous conviction in 2014 for allegedly attempting to run over a police officer. But way before her final sentencing, Gentry would become legendary for her courtroom outbursts, rants, and ejections, which would go viral.
I don’t really want to get into the legitimacy argument surrounding the whole sovereign citizen movement, particularly the Moorish Nation. I would like to avoid the entire comment section being flooded with angry ranters with ‘Bey’ written somewhere in their screen names and images of Noble Drew Ali as their profile pictures. However, her actions do highlight the horrible income inequality and affordable housing crisis, which exists across the state of Tennessee. According to a fact sheet from the Economic Policy Institute and Center on Budget and Policies Priorities, the richest five percent of households in Tennessee have incomes that are 4.9 times bigger than the middle 20 percent and 13.4 times larger than the bottom 20 percent.
Likewise, a recent report by a Vanderbilt University professor and urban planning team shows that Nashville, in particular, is having an affordable housing and gentrification “crisis.” This crisis not only affects the poor, but even households of four earning slightly above the median income of $56,377. And closer to Gentry’s neck of the woods, Memphis is ranked second in a list of metros with the highest income segregation in America. With this sort of economic inequality, you could sort of understand why someone would be willing to commandeer something from the rich in order to have a chance in this world for both themselves and their children.
But in the case of Gentry, I honestly believe that income inequality and the affordable housing crisis is secondary to a more important issue here: the lack of attention to those in need of mental health treatment within our nation’s criminal justice system. According to this article in the Huffington Post by Alana Horowitz, entitled, “Mental Illness Soars in Prison, Jails While Inmates Suffer“:
A 2006 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that over half of all jail and prison inmates have mental health issues; an estimated 1.25 million suffer from mental illness, over four times the number in 1998. Research suggests that people with mental illness are overrepresented in the criminal justice system by rates of two to four times the normal population. The severity of these illnesses vary, but advocates say that one factor remains steady: with proper treatment, many of these incarcerations could have been avoided.
I am not a doctor, but when your own daughter is calling the police on you asking for help, it is safe to say that something isn’t quite right. And I’m afraid that once again, we are locking a sick person away in prison – for a very long and unnecessary time – instead of getting them the necessary mental health treatment they need.
Meanwhile, the sociopaths and egomaniacs who cause the global economic crisis are still running free, and untreated, among us.