Hey, what are you getting your mom for Mother’s Day? A card? Flowers? A few of her favorite Ben & Jerry’s pints? Being a mom is hard work, so whatever your plans are this May 10th, make sure you make your mom feel special (while maintaining social distancing...).
Of course, some mothers won’t be able to celebrate this day with their kids. Did you know that 80% of the more than 2.8 million women jailed each year in the US are mothers? (Overall, the rate of imprisonment for women has grown twice as fast as it has for men since 1980.) Incarceration has a huge impact on families, and no one suffers more from that separation than kids.
That’s why we love what our partners, Color of Change and Michigan Liberation, are doing as part of the National Bail Out Collective (NBO) on Mother’s Day. And this year, with COVID-19 putting the lives of so many women in jail and prison at risk, these bailouts are more important than ever. Families deserve to be safe, healthy, and together—on Mother’s Day, and every day.
Keep Families Together
America’s money bail system seemingly works just fine if you’re wealthy, but people who can’t afford to pay bail can wind up behind bars indefinitely, for weeks, months, or even years. Of the 231,000 women incarcerated in the United States right now, more than half are being held in jails, and many of them haven’t been convicted of anything. They’re behind bars, like hundreds of thousands of other people, only because they don’t have money for bail. With women continuing to face discrimination in the work place and a gender pay gap that results in women earning 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, it’s no wonder they can’t afford bail.
But the situation gets worse: More than 60% of women in state prisons, and nearly 80% of those in jail, have children younger than 18 back home. And most of these women are their kids’ primary caregiver.
At least 5 million kids in the US have had a parent spend time behind bars—or about 7% of all American youth. Children of color are disproportionately affected: 1 in 9 Black children (11.4%), versus 1 in 57 white children (1.8%) have an incarcerated parent. Studies show that kids with an incarcerated parent are more likely to suffer from a whole slew of health problems, like PTSD, depression, and asthma. They’re also more likely to experience poverty and to struggle at school. All of this puts their future at risk.
Bailouts Are Only the Beginning
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Since 2017, the National Bail Out Collective has gotten hundreds of mothers out of jail on Mother’s Day so that they can be right where they belong—at home, with their kids. But really, that’s only the beginning. The NBO also offers other services, like fellowships and employment opportunities, to those they bail out. This year, because of the unprecedented impact that the pandemic is having on families, the NBO is also providing weeks of groceries, rent assistance, and other support services. COVID-19 is putting the lives of so many incarcerated Americans at risk. Kids need their mothers home now, healthy and alive.
Time to Transform the System
Of course, what we really need is systemic change. We stand with Color of Change and the NBO in recognizing that money bail is just one broken part of a broken system—it’s time to take the money flowing into the prison system and use it to invest in communities and people instead.
So, this Mother’s Day, as we celebrate the women who take care of us and support us, let’s think of those mothers who want to do the same for their kids, but can’t. Support the NBO. Help make sure that families stay together. Then join the movement to end money bail!