“I have been taking care of my grandchildren since their mom went away to Logan Prison, and I try to make all things possible for them, but have very little money to do so. My daughter is so grateful and happy to know her kids will have gifts and not feel forgotten. That’s the greatest gift a mom can ask for. –Barbara McGee
According to the Bureau of Justice, the average distance between an incarcerated mother and her child is 160 miles. That distance is particularly far for the poor and disproportionately Black families who are most heavily impacted by incarceration. In the United States, a quarter of a million mothers are in prison or jail, and 80-85% of the mothers incarcerated in Illinois are mothers of minor children, most of whom werein their care prior to their arrest. That leaves a lot of moms locked in and a lot of children locked away from their care, the majority of whom are left without either parent and must be cared for by another family member or foster care. While there is public outcry over the resources spent to support mass incarceration, little of that money is spent to support children impacted by incarceration. For the second year in a row, three organizations, Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration, The Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers (CLAIM) program of Cabrini Green Legal Aid and Nehemiah Trinity Rising came together to raise $3,000 to bus children to visit their incarcerated mothers, as well as to generate gift donations for 7 facilities, including Logan and Decatur Prisons, and Cook County Jail, so that moms who are incarcerated can give holiday gifts to their kids. 1,400 donations of toys, games, art and science kits and journals have been sent to facilities through an Amazon wish list called “Holiday Solidarity: Gifts From Incarcerated Moms to their Kids”. With an average gift price of $20, that’s $28,000 worth of donations to incarcerated moms and their children in 3 weeks. At least 200 more donations are needed to raise enough donations for moms held in Division 17 of Cook County Jail, which holds more mothers than any other U.S. jail.
In addition to creating an opportunity for incarcerated moms to share gifts directly with their children, the organizers hope to raise the visibility of the largest group of people disappeared within America, the millions of people in U.S. jails and prisons. Due to drug laws, incarceration of moms for survival crime related to addiction, poverty and domestic violence, and criminal justice “reforms” such as mandatory minimums, women suffer the fastest growing rate of incarceration, with an increase of 800% in just 30 years. Among them, Black women are disproportionately affected, and given current rates, the lifetime likelihood of incarceration for Black women is 1 in 19. As a result, 1 in 9 Black children have a parent who is incarcerated, compared to a still enormous rate of 1 in 28 for all children. Too many children live each day with the trauma and insecurity of having their parents taken away from them. The goal, therefore, is also working together to support resourcing communities, community-based alternatives to all forms of incarceration, and to interrupt a systemic crisis and cycle that greatly increases the likelihood of incarceration for juveniles.
Most of the gifts have already been delivered directly to the facilities through the wish list. Donations for local facilities will still be collected until next Friday at a holiday party celebrating the gift drive and mothers and children who have been reunited. At this free event, attendees will hear from formerly incarcerated moms, wrap gifts, and do holiday-themed craft activities with kids. Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration, the CLAIM program of Cabrini Green Legal Aid and Nehemiah Trinity Rising would like to thank everyone who has donated, shared the list, and who has committed to work in solidarity with incarcerated mothers everywhere.
What: Holiday Party in Solidarity with Formerly and Currently Incarcerated Moms; donations are still being collected via Amazon Wishlist as well: http://amzn.com/w/56C8E97VD7K4
When: Friday, December 18th, 5:30pm-8:30pm
Where: First Baptist Congressional Church, 1613 W. Washington, Chicago