One of our collective members will be presenting a poem Alisha wrote for her mama Sherri at this year’s Incarcerated Mother’s Day! This will be our third year talking about our work to free our comrade, and the complexities of care-giving and sex working! You’ll recognize the piece being read as a part of LeLe’s latest creative project: “A Survivor: Alisha Walker” a poetry and art zine.
Join Moms United and co-sponsoring orgs for our 5th annual Mother’s Day vigil and toiletry drive outside Cook County Jail, on the green, directly across from the main visitor’s gate.
Our co-sponsors include Brave Space Alliance, Chicago Community Bond Fund, Chicago Books to Women in Prison, Chicago Volunteer Doulas, Black Lives Matter: Chicago, Lifted Voices, Love & Protect, People’s Lobby, Justice for Alisha Walker & Support Ho(s)e, Sister Survivor, Westside Justice Center and more!
We will uplift and honor mothers separated from their kids by incarceration in jails, prisons, deportation centers, and even by the restrictive conditions of electronic monitoring and parole, which are not supportive of caregiver duties. We will hear from formerly and recently incarcerated moms, their loved ones, and abolitionist organizers/artists–many embody all of these descriptions. We’ll hear music, release balloons*, greet loved ones on their way to and from visits.
We’ll be collecting toiletry donations at the vigil; please contact us in advance if you have a larger quantity to donate. For those who do not live near or who cannot be physically present, we’ll have a link to donate so that specific moms in need at Logan and Decatur can receive phone funds to talk with their families.
We can accept full or travel size bottles of shampoo, conditioner, liquid soap, lotion. We can accept bar soap, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste. We can accept tampons and pads. Any cosmetics or higher end products (e.g. samples of skin creams, etc), we’ll reserve for women who are returning, as not all can or will be distributed inside. All items must be sealed/unused. Reach out with questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope you can join us for a vigil that gets a bit bigger each year!
According to the Prison Policy Institute, there are nearly 220,000 women incarcerated in the US, 96,000 of whom are in jails, the vast majority of whom are there because the bond required for pre-trial release amounts to half or all of their annual income. The majority of incarcerated women are mothers. We do not have good numbers on how many transgender women and non-binary caregivers are in men’s facilities. The average distance between an incarcerated mom and their child is 180 miles, a cost prohibitive 360 mile roundtrip to visit. If you would like to learn more about supporting visits between moms and kids, check out our collaboration with CGLA and Nehemiah Trinity Rising: https://www.facebook.com/ReunificationRide/)
While rates of incarceration in jails and prisons have flattened decreased overall–a stat obscured by the increase in use of electronic monitoring–they have remained steady and/or increased for women, in part related to increased criminalization of drug use and addiction. That increase also correlates to the wage gap, rising rates of rent and decreasing supply of affordable housing, and barriers to services. That correlation is reinforced by the fact that Black, Latinx, and Native women are incarcerated at disproportionately high rates. Incarceration rates for women also relate to, and reflect violence against women, and how that is founded and compounded by state violence.
87% of incarcerated girls experienced some form of family-based violence and often acute housing insecurity prior to their incarceration. Nearly all incarcerated women are survivors of domestic violence, most were struggling to raise children below the poverty line, and most are criminalized directly related to violence and poverty. Women with long sentences are often convicted under variations of accountability laws, where the underlying reality of abuse and coercion was disregarded in their prosecution.
While incarcerated, an estimated 200,000 people each year are victims of sexual violence, though that number could be much higher given the fear of retaliation, especially when the assault is initiated by staff. And the invasion of bodies is also a function of official procedure insofar as incarcerate people are subject to invasive searches, even to get a visit. Incarceration is violence.
The correlation of trauma, poverty, abuse, and community divestment with women’s incarceration, describes incarceration as a whole. And, if all or most of incarceration is criminalized survival, in which prisoners are subject to further violence and trauma as a matter of course, then our collective response must be to shut them down, address poverty/targeted disinvestment in Black and Brown communities as another form of violence, whose harm can only be reduced with resources that meet needs, not punishment or surveillance. We believe that we can have that world if we demand it, create it, and resist the belief that anyone should be denied a livable world.
Free them all.