Case Study – Rosa Lee Cunningham
Michael J. Rogers
Case Study – Rosa Lee Cunningham
Name: Rosa Lee Cunningham
Age: Born October 7, 1936 – age 54 at time of interview
Dates of Interviews: Various through 1990
Evaluator: Michael Rogers
REASON FOR ASSESSMENT:
Rosa Lee is a 54-year old African American female. She is married but has not lived with her husband in over 40 years and has no regular contact with him. She has eight adult children, three of which intermittently live with her. Her primary sources of income are derived from mostly illegal activities such as dealing drugs, shoplifting, and the sale of stolen goods. She also receives money from government ...view middle of the document...
Her first arrest was in 1951, one year after the birth of her first son. In her lifetime, she has been incarcerated 12 times, serving a total of five years, receiving her first prison term in 1966 for theft. She began selling drugs and prostitution in the 1970’s. She has had numerous incarcerations for a variety of charges ranging from sale of drugs, possession of drugs, prostitution, shoplifting, theft, and others. She is currently involved in legal proceedings related to a theft charge as well as two of her children are also facing unrelated charges. As a result, her life has been a persistent labyrinth of poverty, drug abuse, hospitalizations, and periodic incarcerations that are the result of her criminal behavior, both petty and violent. Her family, with the exception of two of her sons, has also been multigenerationally involved in the penal system, not only her children but her grandchildren as well. Many of her children, and grandchildren, have learned their criminal behavior directly from Rosa Lee’s tutelage.
Additionally, Rosa Lee has had a number of health issues ranging from simple to complex. She has issues related to liver disease associated from her many years of substance abuse as well as Hepatitis and HIV from her years as a prostitute and or her IV drug use. She is often hospitalized for short durations due to the complications of these illnesses, and the illness are often exacerbated further from both her unhealthy/drug-seeking lifestyle as well as her poverty.
Complicating her poverty and other issues is her literacy level. At age 13, Rosa Lee dropped out of school when she became pregnant with her first child. She never learned how to read or write and was functionally illiterate as a result. She married at 16 to escape her overbearing mother. Within a short time, her husband began to beat her and she subsequently moved back in with her mother. Her eight children have been fathered by six different men; never settling down permanently with any of the men. This forced her to raise the children as a single mother.
Rosa Lee’s family of origin was also extremely poor, rising out of the impoverished remnants of Civil War slavery into the sharecropper lifestyle in and around the Washington D.C. area. Her father was an abusive alcoholic and her mother was an overbearing, controlling, physically and emotionally abusive mother. Much of her early life was spent in a struggle between trying desperately to leave her mother’s abuse and needing the shelter of her home to escape the abuse of a husband. Growing up she battled many social barriers as well: racial oppression, economic exploitation, segregation, limited educational opportunities, and overwhelming poverty.
Rosa Lee’s daily activities typically begin with a trip to the methadone clinic for her treatment. She is unable to contain the withdrawal symptoms without the treatment but admits that she will return to her regular heroin use as soon as she is...