Why is it a heartbroken mother who just lost her daughter to an evil crime is out on the front lines preaching to parents about protecting their children? 

Why am I buying pepper spray and wondering if I need a gun while my mama is also worried and giving me another form of self-defending protection?

Why, why, why was the man charged with first-degree kidnapping in the case of Aniah Blanchard out on bond for several violent offenses?

And why is hardly anyone talking about it?

I can only imagine the questions Aniah’s parents, friends and family are asking. I can only imagine the pain they are feeling.

Because our criminal justice system has failed them.

Aniah’s mother, Angela Harris, advised parents about safety of their children at her own daughter’s vigil, which she absolutely should be doing but it’s not her job to fix the issue of violent crime in Alabama. However, I admire her so much for having the strength to speak up and be a voice for those who no longer have one.

But some of the things she said bother me down to my very core, only because our state has let violent crime become so normal.

“I’m feeling a lot of guilt right now,” Harris said.

Guilt, she said.

I can understand a parent feeling guilt; that’s a normal reaction. I know it hurts and I know it’s so easy to blame yourself in a situation like this. But the blame is so far from being on Aniah’s mother; it’s on Alabama and the slew of politicians who aren’t saying a word or are saying things but not doing them.

Harris said she talked to Aniah every single day about protecting herself and reminded her not to go anywhere alone at night. Aniah was a responsible girl, but her mother still hammered the precautions to take into her mind.

“You prepare them,” Harris said at the vigil. “You think you prepare them enough ... We have to prepare them. We have to do everything we can.”

Harris said she should’ve prepared Aniah “a little bit more.” 

But no, sweet mama, no. This is not your fault.

Ibraheem Yazeed, 29, has a lengthy history of arrests but few convictions. He was charged with two counts each of robbery and attempted murder, all of which here no-billed by a grand jury. 

Yazeed was convicted of drug charges but was given probation. An out-of-state run-in with the law led to more drug possession charges and assault and battery against an officer. He was convicted of the drug charges but acquitted of the assault and battery.

In January, Yazeed got another attempted murder charge along with robbery and kidnapping charges after he and others allegedly beat two men — one nearly to death — in a hotel room. Yazeed was free on bond when he allegedly kidnapped Aniah.

While it is the responsibility of parents to educate children on how to protect themselves and let them know the dangers of the world, it’s not all on them. It’s on our legislators. It’s on our courts and our justice system. It’s on us, citizens of Alabama, to speak out and try to ignite change.

The second suspect, Antwon Fisher, 35, allegedly provided transportation to Yazeed and helped him dispose of evidence. Fisher was charged with capital murder in 2005 but took a plea deal for felony murder and was sentenced to 19 years in prison with two years to serve. 

In what world does murder get you only a few years then you run free?

Attorney General Steve Marshall recently took a stand to say our state has a violent crime problem, but very few of our politicians have been willing to acknowledge it. 

Statistics show violent crime in Alabama is up 20% over the last 10 years, has the seventh highest murder rate in the nation and is the fifth most violent state in the nation.

My question is what is Alabama going to do about it?

Because giving criminals third, fourth, fifth — what seems like infinite — chances isn’t the answer. It’s not early releases because of “good” behavior nor is it plea deals that lessen the magnitude of the crime actually committed. They may help the offender, but why are we helping offenders with murder on their resumes?

The longer Alabama lets violent, repeat offenders and those with murder charges walk beside us in stores, pump gas with us and get in their cars next to us, the more violent crimes will happen. That means more and more victims and lives lost because of a broken justice system — one that seems to forget about victims like Aniah when it lets violent offenders off the hook.

Yes, Mrs. Harris, let’s fight back against evil in the world but let’s hold our state accountable and ask it to do its part too. 

Santana Wood is managing editor of TPI’s newspapers. She can be reached at santana.wood@alexcityoutlook.com