As Mother’s Day approaches, let’s again remember all of the moms behind bars and all of the children who can’t be with their mothers due to our country’s mass incarceration injustice. To support these women and be heard as a voice against this oppressive system, please consider supporting one of the National Bail Outs happening around the country.
Bail is the price courts assign to people charged with (but still presumed innocent of) crimes. When bail is paid (or not imposed), the accused can await trial at home, with their children and work, instead of in jail. For poor people and people living on the edge of poverty, even a short jail stint often means loss of work, eviction, or loss of child custody. Eighty percent of the women in jail, unable to make bail, have dependent children. Those suffering are disproportionately women of color: black people in this country are imprisoned at more than 5 times the rate of whites. And many of these women are jailed for weeks on end due to traffic offenses or similar minor violations, simply because they cannot afford to pay the bail.
To combat this tragic reality, groups across the country will participate in the National Bail Out, bailing mothers and caregivers out of local jails so they can spend Mother’s Day and beyond with their children. The groups will also be holding teach-ins to explore the devastating impact of money bail and incarceration on our communities. The Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, Chicago Community Bond Fund, Baltimore Action Legal Team, and similar organizations all over the country are participating in a Mama’s Day Bail out.
Another program to consider supporting is the California program “Get on the Bus.” This program recognizes that most incarcerated parents are sent to prisons too far away for their children to visit. So, every year “Get on the Bus” provides children and their caregivers free transportation to prisons, along with snacks and food for the day (including lunch at the prison with their parents), a photo of each child with his or her parent, and, at the end of the day, a teddy bear with a letter from the parent and post-event counseling. Read more and consider supporting Get on the Bus here.
Our country has an incarceration fixation and a seriously warped bail system that often punishes people of color and the poor solely by virtue of race, ethnicity, and/or class. Every day, a half million people who are still legally innocent are nevertheless locked in jail because they cannot afford to pay bail. The for-profit prison industry and the municipalities that bilk poor people for every fine, fee and cost imaginable for misdemeanors, traffic offenses, and petty charges both contribute to this serious problem. We have a modern day debtors’ prison and we are in dire need of systemic changes that must happen on the local level (because we know the Trump administration and the national Republican party that controls Congress are not going to lead the reform). In the meantime, think about helping connect some mothers and children ripped apart by our country’s incarceration mania.