Chicago, IL—(ENEWSPF)—May 8, 2015. The Illinois Department of Corrections estimates that 80-85% of incarcerated women are mothers of minor children. That means a whole lot of moms will visit their kids inside jail or prison this Mother’s Day. Given the many barriers to visitation, many moms never receive a visit from their kids, a painful and personal reminder that incarceration disappears people, sometimes permanently. For that reason, a group of formerly incarcerated moms, and moms who have lost children to incarceration and other forms of state violence, will be holding a Mother’s Day vigil this Saturday, May 9 beginning at 11:15 a.m. right across from Cook County Jail Division 17 (27th & California by the grass median), which houses women who are pregnant and also women who are struggling with trauma, including mental illness and addiction. Organizers insist that this year mothers will not be forgotten behind those walls, rather they will be honored. Furthermore, they will insist that survival is not a crime.
While the vigil may not be visible to the women inside Division 17 or other areas that house mothers, it will be visible to visiting families, who can carry the message inside that they are not forgotten. Women suffer the fastest growing rate of incarceration, with an increase of over 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. The vast majority of these women are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses directly related to trauma and addiction. For those women charged with violent offenses, they are often the direct result of self-defense, which has historically been criminalized in the US, especially for Black and also poor woman. Examples include CeCe McDonald, Marissa Alexander, and Charelle Baldwin. There are many examples in Illinois too, including Paris Knox, Tewkunzi Green, and Tammy Englerth. The goal, therefore, is to highlight the reality that prisons and jails are filled with people committing survival crimes. The demand of the many organizers and supporters is that Illinois expand community-based alternatives to mass incarceration, that the resources saved by not relying on expensive prisons be used to resource communities in ways that could prevent most of those offences, and that self-defense be de-criminalized for Black and poor women as it is for men.
Moms United, with the help of Black Lives Matter, Love & Protect and other groups, is creating a space to center the voices of mothers most directly and profoundly impacted by state violence. There will be a speak-out, music and chants, and as many as 100 balloons released to send out the names of women who are incarcerated across the country for survival, sons and daughters killed by police. Participants are encouraged to include the names of any moms or family members they wish to memorialize or celebrate, in a setting that calls out structural violence as the great offender, not our moms, and not our fallen friends and family.
Source: Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration