Free-Range Kids

Another Mom Thrown in Jail for Letting Kids Play at Park

Should we arrest all moms who have a sub-optimal day and don't manage their time completely perfectly?


Stilfehler / Wikimedia Commons

Ashley, Richardson, a mom of four who went to a food bank while her kids, ages 6-8, played at the park for more than two hours, was arrested and jailed in Winter Haven, Florida. While the park day sounds like it was far less than ideal—the oldest in the bunch got stuck in a baby swing and required help from the Fire Department to get him out, and later on the kids were found playing near the road—the attitude of the police chief is even more disturbing. Bay News 9 quotes Police Chief Gary Hester saying: 

"Six, seven and 8-year-old kids are not equipped to be left unattended, I mean period," he said. "I met some pretty mature 6, 7, 8-year-olds but you don't leave them unattended. I guess the question we should be asking is this 28-year-old mother, should she be left unattended. Doesn't look like she's mature enough to be a parent. She's being supervised today in the county jail. Hopefully she learns her lesson."

If it's true that even 8-year-olds are never to be left unattended "period," I guess Chief Hester would go on around arresting all the first, second and third graders who walk to school on their own, or get home and make themselves a snack while waiting for their parents to arrive?


I truly appreciate that the first officer on the scene waited a long time for the mom to arrive and didn't immediately call for backup or handcuffs. And it does seem like it was a day of some play and some misery for the kids. But it sounds like a day of only misery for Ashley Richardson, who expected the trip to the food bank to take less time than it did. The question then is: Should we arrest all moms who have a sub-optimal day and don't manage their time completely perfectly? Does arresting her improve her family's circumstances or leave the kids any safer or better cared for?

NEXT: Rand Paul: Scene in Ferguson Resembles "War More Than Traditional Police Action"

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  1. If you can’t feed ’em, don’t breed ’em.

    1. Excellent contribution.

    2. I’m assuming this in reference to the mom going to a food bank. The article doesn’t say why she was going. Maybe she was going to drop off some donations, as opposed to not being able to feed her kids.

      1. Maybe she was happily married with four legitimate children, not living on welfare, and her husband deserted her. But don’t bet on it.

        I realize this is slightly off-topic, but not entirely. Many of these sorts of stories (kids left alone in car, etc.) happen to harried single-parents-by-choice. They have made decisions that put them and their kids in poverty and on welfare, and then it turns out to be very difficult. Big surprise.

        1. Well, she wasn’t exactly robbing a bank.
          While I agree on the whole “make sure you can afford kids” approach to life,

          But going to jail isn’t the kind of consequences even irresponsible but law-abiding people should face.

          The government is 100% responsible for the criminalization of poverty (and of most paths out of poverty).

          1. The jailing seems over the top, I agree.

        2. I see, what we really need to do is penalize black single mothers on welfare, but we can’t actually say that out loud, so we make up rules like “Six, seven and 8-year-old kids are not equipped to be left unattended, I mean period” so we can imprison said mothers when they slip up and break those rules (which we only enforce against married white women insofar as is necessary not to look *too* inconsistent).

    3. If only your parents had followed that advice.

  2. Parents in my neighborhood don’t even let their kids walk from the school bus stop home, through a condo complex with a 15-mph speed limit and plenty of sidewalks. There’s always a gaggle of them waiting. Some even wait in their cars.

    1. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting rot in jail while your children are handed over to strangers.

      1. I doubt that’s their line of thinking. I’d say it’s more along the lines of “I need to protect my precious snowflake from all the kiddie rapists!!!11!!1!”

        1. Probably what KK said. My wife concocts all sorts of scenarios where our son dies horribly or becomes disfigured.

          1. It must be hell inside her head.

    2. I live on a cul-de-sac in a wealthy suburb and I’ve seen my neighbors waiting at the bus stop in their SUVs and then driving their kids the 1/16th of a mile home. It is actually pretty hilarious.

      1. What the hell? If I were rich and had the time to do that, I’d stay home and finish a glass of wine before they walk through the door.

      2. Rural area here. Parents do the same thing at the end of their (short) driveways. And the bus stops at each kid’s driveway even if they’re only a short distance apart. No walking to a central bus stop for those special snowflakes.

        1. Shit. My driveway growing up was 500 feet of gravel. Got to walk it in both directions. Hell, when I went to a catholic high school the public school bus wouldn’t stop at the end of my driveway, had to walk another quarter-mile to where it did stop. On a 45 MPH road with no sidewalks and not much of a shoulder.

          Today that would be a lawsuit.

          1. Was it uphill both ways in the snow ?

      3. Yeah, this. The bus stop is literally across the street from us – cars lined up every morning. Private drive.

        OK, seriously – my best friend and I walked to elementary school with our brothers in the 70’s. It was a good mile to the school. No, we did not get rides when it snowed.

        I’ll get off my own lawn now….but IT’s TRUE!!

        For the record, I never so much as looked out the door when our kids headed to the bus stop each day…AND NOTHING ELSE HAPPENED.

        1. When we were twelve we used to miss the bus on purpose so we could walk five miles to school.

      4. I live about four blocks from public housing, and every morning as I walk to work I see both mothers and fathers from two adjacent complexes (one mostly black, one mostly Hispanic) walk their kids across the 1-acre grass lot to the bus stop to wait. Admittedly, there are more Hispanic moms with young kids it seems, but that could be a cultural deal.

        In the early 90s, I walked my happy ass a mile and a half to middle school. ’92-’96, before my friends started driving, I marched to the bus stop in the dark while my dad got ready for work, or I took the city bus if I overslept. The most harm that ever came to me was that my hair would freeze in the winter and it gave me plenty of opportunity to spend my lunch money on Camels. We were a solidly middle-class family in a much nicer part of the city I live in to this day.

        Point being, there’s not a “rich white people do this, but poor black people do this” type of thing with this behavior, at least not where I live. Although, to be fair, the ballin’ WASPs in my area would be more likely to drive their kids to a private school than take a bus to the pretty terrible public schools in the area, but still.

    3. I live in a gated apartment complex where the bus stop is right at the damn gate, and parents (residents of the same complex) still drive their kids over there and wait. It’s goddamn insane.

      1. let me guess: those same parents probably bitch and moan and expect the schools and the government to do something about childhood obesity? Because God forbid they walk their precious little snowflake’s fat ass to the damned bus stop.

        1. That is a really good point. And I wonder if they let their kids play outside at all?

  3. Question for Gary Hester:

    What were you allowed to do at 6, 7, and 8?

    I see, you could do whatever the fuck you wanted to at that age so long as you were home for dinner? By all means then, carry on harassing people for doing whatever you thought was normal when you were a kid.

    1. Things were different back then. Back then when something happened to a kid, it tended to go no further than the local news. It wasn’t picked up by a 24hr news cycle and put on the front page of every newspaper in a successful effort to instill fear in the hearts of every mother in the country.

      1. That’s because journalists back then actually did journalism instead of merely printing police press releases.

        You can be damn sure that the reason we even know about this is because Gary Hester made sure his PR department alerted every news outlet in town. And nowadays the news outlets only “report” what PR departments send their way.

        Basically, it’s Gary Hester getting a “show of force” boner and the news outlets jacking him off.

        1. Thankfully, he’s retiring next month.

      2. True and the pols and police don’t want to end up on the news because a child actually got abducted on their watch. The negative PR for that would far outweigh the negative PR this story has.

      3. Eh — there were child abuse panics back then, too. I remember in the 1970s, there were some ‘stranger danger’ episodes and then there was this ‘Block Parent’ program where stay-at-home mothers would put signs in their front windows to let kids know that it was a potential safe refuge. Hmmm — looks like it’s still sort of going in Canada:

        Anyway, the late 60’s / early 70’s were pretty violent times — war protests, race riots, Weatherman bombings, serial killers, etc and yet somehow it wasn’t even thinkable for parents to put their little kids on leashes 24×7.

        1. To coin a phrase, we weren’t on a war footing.

        2. then there was this ‘Block Parent’ program where stay-at-home mothers would put signs in their front windows to let kids know that it was a potential safe refuge

          The only problem I can see there is that would be a good for a pedophile to lure in victims. But other than that miniscule risk, it sounds a million times better than some asshat busy body with too much free time calling the cops every time they a see an unaccompanied minor.

          1. Officer Over Lee Friendly.

        3. I remember PSA’s about what to do if you found a blasting cap’

          1. Wow. Me too.

            Haven’t even remembered that for ages.

            But now I wonder why that was ? Were lost blasting caps really such a big and common problem ?

          2. I remember Jarts…I used to love jarts!!!

      4. Sarc @ 1:03PM

        Bingo, we have a winner!!!

        I’ve been calling this the “Ratherization” (after Dan Rather) of America since I first noticed the trend about 30 years back. What was once a mild illness has now become a life-threatening plague.

        1. We read this book for some class I took in undergrad. I remember making everyone in my family read it when I finished.

          1. From what I can see the author thinks citizens shouldn’t have guns. Apparently only the military/police should. That’s not the world I want to live in. I won’t be supporting that author by buying his book.

          2. Anti-gun sentiment notwithstanding, I’ve often read and heard that, statistically, we’re much safer than ever before in our history, while reporting of events has increased inversely. Ironically for the author, apparently, this is especially true of gun violence, which even when you count things like legally-sanctioned self-defense shootings, police shootings, etc., has been falling consistently over time even as individual firearm ownership rates increase.

  4. I don’t remember Ward or June getting arrested when the Beaver got caught in a coffee cup.

  5. Yay, another small-minded, petty, stupid article defending dead-beat scumbag parents.

    This is why libertarians will never win a damn thing, focusing on petty idiocies committed by people too dumb to raise their kids*, while the whole country goes down the toilet.

    *kids who are so stupid they get STUCK IN SWINGS THEY ARE OBVIOUSLY TOO LARGE FOR, by the way.

    1. So, I guess pretty much every parent in history prior to the advent of helicopter parenting was a deadbeat scumbag then, huh?

    2. B- trolling. Focuses too much on libertarians’ election chances, when the correct phrasing is “This is why no one takes libertarians seriously”.

      1. B-? that was nice of you.. I feeling more D+ to C-.

        1. Here’s my grading assessment:

          Good bits:

          – Completely missing the point (The fact she was thrown in jail).
          – Reversing culpability: “focusing on petty idiocies committed by people too dumb to raise their kids”.
          – Namecalling, both of the victim of state action and of the people opposed to state overreach.
          – Accusation of “ignoring the real issues”, and never mentionning them.
          – Bonus credit: taking a swipe at the kids, not so subtly implying the whole family’s idiocy is genetic.

          Bad bits:

          – No attempt at defending the state’s actions. No slippery slope fallacy.
          – Not dismissive enough. Treats libertarians as more than just a bad joke.
          – Indication of having read multiple articles (makes it harder to do the whole “you’re below even my contempt” shtick).

    3. Back when I was a child (when dinosaurs roamed the earth)…

      – One of my brothers decided to jump out of our tree house and broke his foot. Our parents were in the house. He’s now a successful business owner.

      – My sister fell out off the top bunk bed in our room while horsing around with my other sister and broke her leg. Our parents were in the next room. She’s now a nurse.

      – I once slipped at a water slide park and fell against a chain link fence. When I tried to get up, I found that the fence had speared me in the calf and I had a lovely puncture wound. Oops – my parents weren’t there – I was the tender age of 16. I, too, am a successful business owner.

      I could go on like this for awhile, since there were five of us, but you know what? Kids have accidents, and it has nothing to do with their intelligence or how good their parents are. Kids goof off and sometimes get into situations that they need a little assistance getting out of; it teaches them not to do it again.

      I bet you’re one of those people that gives my daughter dirty looks because she’s not running after my 5-year-old grandson as he plays in the “wet park” of our community swimming pool, making sure the poor baby doesn’t fall down and hurt himself.

    4. Hey righteous fucking rants are my thing!!!

  6. I was held in stasis in my isolation chamber until I was aged 18 years. I had everything I needed: constant data input, vitamin-enriched caloric sustenance, safety.

    1. +1 Bubble Boy

    2. You had vitamin-enriched caloric sustenance?


      1. Yeah, damn. My parents just injected sugar water into the bubble and I had to absorb it through my skin.

      2. Luxury.

        Once the orphans are too weak to polish monocles, what else are you supposed to do with them? Waste not, want not.

    3. Depending on what constant data input entails, that sounds pretty good.

      1. It’s Fist, so probably a steady stream of Warty Hugeman Time Travel Adventures and slashfic.

    4. It shows.

  7. I guess Chief Hester would go on around arresting all the first, second and third graders who walk to school on their own

    shhh! Don’t give them ideas…

  8. That’l learn her to breed.

    So if we’re making parenting such a high risk/high cost – low reward vocation — who will be stupid enough to breed?
    Is there a limit to the number of central american kids we have to import to keep our half-assed civilization running?

    1. “High cost”? Only sometimes. If she isn’t on welfare, getting welfare for the kids, and living in subsidized housing, I’ll eat my hat.

  9. I guess, in a general sense, this proves that we shouldn’t let the “little things” go.

    When I was in college I met a lot of bleeding hearts with a naive sense of reality. I simply thought “boy, you’re going to get a huge dose of reality real soon”. These people now run the government and our media. I was the sucker.

    Twenty-plus years ago, before I had kids, I noted how many parents were chauffeuring their kids six blocks to school etc etc and thought what a bunch of idiots. There was no way I was going to be this way. Little did I know it was going to become the Law of the Land, subject to years in a box.

    And I don’t think items one and two are disconnected from each other.

    I should have pushed and spoken up a hell of a lot more when people were being neurotic and crazy. I guess I assumed that I could let my libertarian disinterest rule the day, for them and for me. They could live as they chose, helicoptering over their children, and I’d be allowed to be sane. I didn’t foresee a cultural fascism descending such as it has.

    1. Sad, but I followed the same pathway after 9/11. I figured “let them have their pity party and wallow in it for a bit, then they’ll move on”. Now as the chains grow heavier and heavier, I wish that I had made a complete and utter pain of myself at every opportunity; it might not have changed anything, but at least I’d be able to say that I had done my fair share.

  10. The lines…

    For anyone to think it is okay to allow small children to walk almost a half mile alone across a heavily-travelled road, not to mention left in unsafe conditions, is criminal and will not be ignored.”


    Doesn’t look like she’s mature enough to be a parent. She’s being supervised today in the county jail. Hopefully she learns her lesson.”

    from the original article sum this up pretty well. Surely the children are better off with no mother at home while she is “learning her lesson.”

    I mean I honestly don’t know how I ever made it past the age of 10.

    1. I still can’t get over the fact that this dude would have arrested my Deputy Sheriff father for my walking to middle school.

  11. Lenore’s posts are too depressing. Can’t we lighten things up with, like, some pictures of dead kittens or something?

  12. I’m considering a move to within a mile of my sons’ school. In two years, I’ll have a 10-yo, 8-yo, and 5-yo all at the same school… and they won’t be able to just walk together because I could wind up in the clink.

    Awesome. Why bother moving close to school?

    1. When I was in elementary school, kids who lived less than a mile from the school were expected to walk to school. Bus service wasn’t available. From school, the kids would walk 1/4 mile or so to the main road where there was a crossing guard. After that they were on their own. That wasn’t that long ago. OK, it was almost 30 years ago now, but it doesn’t seem that long ago.

      1. I rode my bike or walked to school throughout elementary and middle school, twice a day. uphill! both ways! in sand storms! and searing heat!

        But I can’t use this argument here because I grew up on a company compound in the Magic Kingdom, which nannies would argue was a whole other ball of wax.

        Hey, Saudi drivers are dangerous, but I concede I was never in much danger other than from heat stroke.

      2. Same here…and I loved walking to and from school. I especially loved walking home form school because my friends and I could screw around in the neighborhood. We used to take a shortcut through people’s lawns and up in the woods, or climb up a sandstone cliff to a little “cave” and just hang out (unless the teenagers were there first, drinking and making out).

      3. When I was in school in the 70s, in Tampa, it was decided that bus transportation was only for kids who lived 2 miles from their school.

  13. Couldn’t the mother receive a warning and a stern lecture? Or some mandated parenting classes at the local community college? I don’t see what’s to gain from jail time.

    1. It certainly isn’t doing the kids any good to have mom locked up.

      I don’t even see that she did anything that deserves lecturing or correction. You should be able to let your kids play in a park for a few hours. The fact that one of the kids did something dumb with a swing set really isn’t terribly pertinent.

    2. You think the State actually cares about people’s welfare?

    3. Here’s the thing, the lesson to be learned is not really for the mom that got thrown in the pokey. The lesson is for two other groups:

      1. Other parents will now fear letting their children out of their sight.
      2. Helicopter parents will be able to bask in their feelings of smug superiority.

      We’re all helicopter parents now.

    4. I don’t see what’s to gain from jail time.

      Well obviously she’s going to get jacked, make a few criminal connections, get released, go back home to sharpen the ends of all of her toothbrushes and teach her children that snitches get stitches.

      Patient, rehabilitated.

    5. Because FYTW. The majesty of the Almighty State, blessed be It forever, must be preserved by any means necessary.

    6. I don’t see what’s to gain from jail time

      Because throwing people in jail or shooting dogs is the only way Police Chief Hester is able to get hard so he can feebly attempt to satisfy his wife, and since there were no dogs around…

      1. “I’m here to jail innocents and shoot dogs and I’m all out of dogs.”

    7. You know, even IF you think this woman was a bad parent and/or made a bad decision, this is the bottom line. Do you lecture her and let her go? Or do you throw her in jail?

      1. Write her a bill for the fire department’s time in unsticking her kids.

  14. If it’s true that even 8-year-olds are never to be left unattended “period,” I guess Chief Hester would go on around arresting all the first, second and third graders who walk to school on their own, or get home and make themselves a snack while waiting for their parents to arrive?

    He’d like to protect those children from their troubled homes, but he’ll need his budget increased first.

  15. Chief Hester should either be fired, or voted out of office, depending on how the town runs its affairs.

  16. I don’t understand how this woman could have gotten in trouble for following the advice of “mom-in-chief” Mic-heil Obamao’s “Let’s Move” campaign. Doubtless her trip to the food bank took longer than expected only because she had a hard time choosing “healthy options”. Maybe she was just “putting [herself] higher on [her] own ‘to do’ list” for a while.

    Remember, as the FLOTUS preaches, “As a mom, I know it is my responsibility, and no one else’s, to raise my kids. But we have to ask ourselves, what does it mean when so many parents are finding their best efforts undermined by an avalanche of advertisements aimed at our kids.”

    Either that or government authoritarians.

    1. I’ve pointed out this contradiction before. “Kids are fucking fat! Get them to exercise more!” “Kids are constantly in danger! Keep them locked up!”

      1. Hamster wheels. Dilemna solved.

        1. and you connect the hamster wheel to a generator…voila renewable energy!

    2. Seriously…this is Michelle Obama’s fault? What the fuck is wrong with you?

  17. “Six, seven and 8-year-old kids are not equipped to be left unattended, I mean period,”

    Then you are raising them wrong. By 8 I was running trap lines with my 10 year old brother. Gone for hours at a time, with knives and guns even.

    1. I’m willing to bet he doesn’t think anyone younger than him is equipped to be left unattended.

      1. He probably doesn’t even think he’s to be left unattended. He’s been dealing with feelings af abandonment ever since his mother took him off the teet, and now he takes out his anger toward his mother for denying him the teet on others.

  18. Is it me or does Chief Hester sound wildly unprofessional giving unsolicited parenting advice and making a joke out of someone he has in jail who, as far as I can tell, has yet to be convicted of any crime?

    1. No, it’s completely appropriate for police chiefs to determine and carry out the appropriate punishments for things that may or may not actually be against the law.

    2. In his defense, her kids sound pretty fucking stupid. I’ve never seen an 8-year-old need the rescue squad to extract him from a swing.

      1. I know the type of swing. It’s almost impossible for a kid to get out without assistance, by design, (it’s great for 2-5 year olds that you don’t trust to keep holding on when pushed).

        Now, probably any reasonably strong adult should be able to lift them out. Not sure what happened.

        1. As an adult male there is no way I would risk touching someone else’s kid, even to help them.

  19. When I was 5, I routinely ran around with my siblings ages 4, 9 and 10. We were a clan of little hellions. Not only did we play in the park unattended, we built forts in the woods (or the trees lining the highway, which was the best we could do), and we snuck into the President’s lounge at the local U and rearranged the furniture.
    We would survive on soup crackers and condiments stolen from the cafeteria. (My favorite thing was sucking on a vinegar packet).

    To be fair, my mom WAS a verbally abusive nutjob, and my eldest half-sister (13 at the time) ended up in foster care. But today, the four of us are all fairly healhy and successful while she’s got major psychological problems. I can’t help thinking that in spite of my mother’s general incompetence, she would have been better off remaining part of the family.

    In any case, running around free-range kept us out of the house, so we were spared the verbal abuse most of the time. Having our own little gang gave us a makeshift family structure.

    (Now that I think of it, real-life gangs probably do the same thing for a lot of other kids, although it gets mixed up with machismo and violence and criminal activity. But an alternative gang-like family substitute embedded in the local community could theoretically provide better support to kids than foster-care system. Maybe it’s a little closed minded to assume that everything about gang life is necessarily bad for the kids that get involved with them.)

  20. Just remember, it takes a village to raise a child. Just that no one mentioned how the village would spy on you, jail you, read your emails, and drive a combat vehicle through your neighborhood to make certain you did that according to village’s prescribed orders.

    Clearly a woman that has to gone to the Food Bank and has no support, no money, no one to help watch her children needs to be thrown in jail. Good call chief. Let’s talk about that war on women.

    Meanwhile, parents are sending their children unaccompanied 1500 miles across Mexico, jumping on freight trains and cross borders with coyotes and drug smugglers. And we aren’t concerned enough to make anyone in government stop the practice the way we always have in the past… by removing the incentive. That’s just too crazy.

    1. The sad thing about Hillary’s “it takes a village” shit is that it takes a pretty valid idea and completely perverts it. It does take a village, meaning that the friends and family and decent neighbors of a family should take an interest and play a role in kids’ lives. You know, things like helping the kid get unstuck from a swing without having to involve the police. When you take the village to mean the police and social services and the whole welfare state, you have completely missed the point.

      1. Progs tend to ignore the distinction between government and society.

    2. “It takes a village to fuck up a child…”

  21. So I went back and skimmed several recent posts of this nature. There seems to be some sort of pattern to the people jailed for not en-bubbling their kids enough. Something … can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is just something they all have in common.

    1. They’re all on government assistance. They’re targeted because they’re poor.

  22. If the park is so fucking dangerous that kids shouldn’t be allowed to play there by themselves, my question for the top cop is:

    Why aren’t you doing your fucking job? Your department is so inept that your town is actually unsafe for children? That’s really the way you want to go on this?

    1. Great point.

      People tend to be all “This isn’t 1950, there are child molesters out there!”

      As if child molestors didn’t exist in 1950. People had guns back then. They had gangs – although the gangs were less militarized because we didn’t have the War on Drugs.And it’s not like gangs typically kidnap children anyway. There’s no reason to think that there is a higher percentage of pedophiles than there ever was. People have the same access to cars they did then. It was just as easy to snatch a kid then as now.

      If playgrounds are less safe today, then the responsibility lies with the local police, not because human nature has somehow gotten more violent or deviant in the past 50 years.

      1. I’d be really surprised if there hadn’t always been at least as many child molesters/predators as there are now. I’d bet that there are fewer now because people actually talk about that stuff now and it is a priority for law enforcement, where is used to be more something that was kept “in the family”.

    2. Good point, if it a crime hotbed, or intrinsically unsafe shouldn’t he have a patrol there?

  23. Is there a statute of limitations? If not, then I’d guess Chief Hester’s mom should be arrested as well. Pretty much anyone over 40 now had parents that let them be alone around that age. I and pretty much everyone I knew were alone for summer vacation.

  24. I was in rural MN last week. It was different than NYC, New Jersey, or Toronto, the places I have lived the last 8 years. I go to the park with my 4 year old, and there are 6 other kids and no parents. One of the kids was younger than my daughter. She asked the girl, “Where is your mommy?” My daughter tends to worry about kids without parents. When we see kids walking to school in Toronto she is worried that they don’t have parents and she feels bad for them.

    Another girl just answered, “Her mommy is at home making supper.”

    That is how it was growing up in my neighborhood until Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped, and then parents freaked out. Not sure that the freaking out is irrational, since even though the probability of something happening is low the cost is so high.

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