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Author Topic: Mothers in Jail Affect Children  (Read 3568 times)

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Offline Forevermah

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Mothers in Jail Affect Children
« on: May 15, 2008, 07:37:05 AM »
Mothers in jail affect children
James Kowalsky
Issue date: 5/15/08 Section: Forum

I miss my mommy. That's right, I said it. Being a South Florida boy up at Northwestern is hard enough with the painful winters, salt shortages and insufficient tanning opportunities. What makes it worse is that I am too far from my family to make it home for holidays. In three years, I haven't been home for Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday). So going home for Mother's Day? Forget it.

In the spirit of Mother's Day, I decided to go to the city on Friday and attend a rally for mothers. The banner behind the stage read "Women in Prison, Children in Crisis." The rally was organized by Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers, a not-for-profit group dedicated to helping mothers in prison maintain contact with their children. Each year in Illinois, at least 25,000 children are affected by maternal incarceration.

Speakers at the rally included former prisoners who talked about instances of rape in prison, separation from their children and inability to receive treatment for their substance abuse issues while incarcerated. In addition, one daughter stood up and delivered a poem titled "The Day My Mother was Sent Away." Her mother was a first-time, non-violent offender, but mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines ensured that her daughter would grow up without her mother's "education, discipline and love."

On the grassroots level, there were community organizers there representing groups like Heartland Alliance, Black on Black Love/My Sister's Keeper and Family Connections/Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. Lutheran Social Services keeps families connected by having prisoners record themselves reading children's books and mailing the recording to their children. One father who participates said, "This program has really, really kept me in communication with my daughter and niece. Both can't wait 'til I come home."

There were members of the Illinois State Congress there to present and discuss these issues. State Rep. Karen Yarborough was promoting prison reform legislation that would increase the availability of community-based sentencing to allow people to stay in their communities, work, receive treatment and remain closer to their families. State Rep. Deborah Graham said, "Prison isn't the answer for our people today."

The rally highlighted a not-often-discussed fact-our prison system is in shambles. Despite only having 5 percent of the world's population, the United States has 25 percent of the world's prison population. As our prison population has skyrocketed in the last 20 years, it has left the system with fewer resources. Opportunities to get an education, drug treatment and mental health services are scarce. Parents are incarcerated hours away from home and out of reach of their families. The net effect is that communities which need the most help are neglected.

In a humble attempt to bring attention to these issues, members of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws-Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the College Democrats, Race Alliance Network and compassionate students who are interested will be gathering at the Rock to fast and sleep outside for a day from Sunday, May 18, to Monday evening, May 19. The fast will begin with a panel on these issues in Harris 107, Sunday at 6 p.m. The director of Roosevelt University's Institute for Metropolitan Affairs, Kathleen Kane-Willis, will lead the panel, which also includes Walter Boyd of Protestants for the Common Good; Tom Grippando, who worked for the public defender's office; David Disaboto, a former inmate; and Nick Blusucci, a recovering drug addict.

This Mother's Day, some of us did not get to see our Mom because we were too busy, too lazy or simply too far away. But, in a tight spot, we know our moms would drop everything to be there for us. Not everyone is so fortunate. How does incarcerating parents, especially mothers, benefit our communities?

- James Kowalsky
Communication junior
Co-founder, NORML-SSDP
Organizer, Starve the Prison Industrial Complex
Do not value the "things" you have in your life - value "who" you have in your life....

“Instead of thinking about what you're missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is missing.”

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