On this Day [24th June 1997]: Melissa Drexler was charged with murder

Melissa Drexler in 1997

On this day in 1997 Melissa Drexler, an eighteen year-old school graduate from New Jersey was charged with murdering her newly born baby at her high school prom. A shy introverted girl, she hid her pregnancy from the father of the child and her parents then secretly delivered the baby herself in the school toilet on Prom Night. Afterwards she placed the infant inside several plastic bags and dumped it in a rubbish bin and returned to the party where said nothing more about the incident…

She admitted killing the child and was subsequently sentenced to fifteen years for murder and placed in a state prison. Mercifully, she was released in 2001 after serving only three years of her sentence and moved back to her parent’s home. According to prison officials, she was a model prisoner who studied fashion design during her incarceration. This tragic story would have ended very differently, if she had lived in Europe.

This young woman was clearly mentally disturbed and while she did commit a serious crime, she would have been treated with rather more sympathy in the UK for example, than by the American legal system. In Europe, she would have been treated for mental illness and it is very unlikely that she would have been placed in a prison environment, where she was at risk of serious sexual and physical abuse by other prisoners.

Genarlow Wilson

I never ceased to be shocked by the harshness of American prison sentences, especially when crimes involve sex. Remember the story of seventeen-year-old Genarlow Wilson back in 2006, when the young man was sentenced to ten-years for having consensual oral-sex with his fifteen year-old girlfriend? If that law applied in the UK, half the teenage population would be behind bars. Wilson was finally released after spending two-years in jail.

Clearly, if someone commits a serious crime, there should be consequences but very often the American legal system uses a hammer to crack an egg. Perhaps that is why more than one-in-a-hundred Americans [some three-million people] are in prison at any one time. That compares to about one-in-eight-hundred British people.

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but there doesn’t seem to be a disproportionate crime wave in the UK, does there?


About stevehollier

Steve Hollier is the editor of AZ Magazine, an English language lifestyle magazine based in Baku, Azerbaijan. He began his career working for a firm of stockbrokers in the City of London then went on to attend the University of Essex where he was awarded an MA in Sociology in 1984. After a career in arts and cultural development work, he became a freelance arts consultant, writer and photographer.
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5 Responses to On this Day [24th June 1997]: Melissa Drexler was charged with murder

  1. Hugh says:

    yes. overboard. but also a very profitable industry. Inmates work cheap when they aren’t in solitary. A large number of people are employed in the prison and legal systems. Read The Hot House : Life Inside Leavenworth Prison, by journalist Pete Earley published by Bantam Books.


    I posted a blog some time ago about how many Americans were (are) in American prisons, It was a YouTube clip hosted by Stephen Fry. The presenters tried to be funny about the whole thing but became increasingly uncomfortable with the stats. It’s one of the un-funniest clips ever produced from a comedy show. .

  2. stevehollier says:

    I couldn’t agree more…

  3. Xarici says:

    The prison system is a booming business in America. We have more clients that we can serve currently.

  4. joseph cirello says:

    dear sirs i love melissa

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