Sunday is Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is, not surprisingly, a painfully emotional day for women in prison. Remember, women are the fastest growing prison population. And so … how do we celebrate Mother’s Day?
In Raleigh, North Carolina, the Internationalist Prison Book Collective is organizing a Mother’s Day Anti-Prison Noise Demonstration: “We’ll be breaking the isolation and monotony of the women in the Raleigh Correctional Center for Women and the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women (a minimum-security prison next door to RCCW). Together these two prisons have almost 1,500 women, almost all of them mothers. RCCW is the state’s largest prison with 1,288 women including women’s death row.”
Women in prison receive far fewer visitors, especially from their children, than do their male counterparts. The isolation of women prisoners, and of prisoners who are mothers in particular, is intensified by monopolistic and predatory rates for phone calls that make phone calls for more than 65,000 incarcerated mothers prohibitively expensive. “Prohibitively expensive” means impossible. Mother’s Day is just another form of punishment for those women.
But it doesn’t have to be. On the one hand, there are actions of engagement and solidarity, such as those in Raleigh. On the other hand, there are policies and programs. In Brooklyn, New York, District Attorney Charles Hynes has joined with the Women’s Prison Association to create an alternative, JusticeHome, that will allow mothers convicted of felonies a chance to stay home while they serve their time.
The program begins and ends by acknowledging the centrality of context. Women take responsibility for their actions and for their lives. The State takes responsibility as well. The children, who bear no responsibility in this drama and yet somehow have paid the price in the increased incarceration of women, and especially of women of color, are allowed to continue to grow and thrive. It’s an experiment … an experiment in justice.
So, this Mother’s Day, make a joyful noise. Make a joyful noise, all the earth; make a loud noise, and rejoice. Make a loud noise, and make it heard.