#FreeBlackMamas – Supporting Incarcerated Women on Mother’s Day

May 08, 2020
Charlotte Palermino – Nice Paper

We’ve been getting a lot of lists lately. Lists of things mom will love. Unexpected surprises you can do while socially distancing if you aren’t nearby. Delivery services that are still delivering. These things are important. Moms are amazing, during a time that’s uncertain and health is precious, celebrating important people in our lives is important. 

Mother’s Day is not the same for everyone

When thinking about Mother’s Day it’s hard to not think about those who don’t have their moms. Losing someone is always hard, whether it’s through death or just not being able to have a healthy relationship with someone in your family. What is particularly heart wrenching, is when the separation is completely avoidable, a byproduct of bureaucracy. Something that if lawmakers just changed the law, more kids would be able to be with their families.

“Around 80% of women in jail are mothers and two-thirds are Black or people of color.”

National Bail Out

In the past few decades, women’s incarceration doubled in pace when compared to men’s incarceration. Unlike men, this growth is happening in jails. For those unfamiliar with jail and America’s arcane cash-bail system that only exists in the US and the Philippines, jail is where you are put when you are not convicted of a crime yet. If you can come up with the money, you can get bailed out. If you can’t come up with the money, you’re kept there until your trial. While we talk a lot about equality in the U.S. the cash bail system is decidedly one built for the haves and have nots. The have nots are overwhelmingly poor, Black, and people of color. And, increasingly so, they’re not even convicted of a crime.

free black moms

Living life while incarcerated

The complications from being held in jail are sweeping. You can lose your job from missing work or stigma and lose your housing. Women tend to have lower-incomes, overwhelmingly when you factor in race, so they are even less likely to have money for bail. If you’re the primary caregiver, how are you supposed to provide care from jail? Around 80% of women in jail are mothers and two-thirds are Black or people of color. The domino effects of this trauma on children and communities are wide-sweeping. Due to the larger scale of men’s incarceration, we’re not talking nearly enough about women in the prison system.

The have nots are overwhelmingly poor, Black, and people of color. And, increasingly so, they’re not even convicted of a crime.

When speaking on the subject I often hear a line from the 1970s TV detective drama Baretta saying “Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.” The War on Drugs and subsequently our ballooning prison population started right around then. The reality is when you’re in jail, you haven’t done the crime, so why does America insist on people doing time? 

mother's hugging

Innocent until proven guilty shouldn’t only apply to people who have money. 2,879,000 women are put in jail every year according to an FBI analysis from 2016. According to one report by the Vera Institute of Justice even if not convicted, many leave jail “with diminished prospects for physical and behavioral health recovery, as well as greater parental stress and financial instability.” 

What can you do?

So, get something nice for your mom and, if you have the means,  consider helping another mom out. The advent of COVID-19 is a catastrophe unfolding in real-time with jails being epicenters of outbreaks making bailouts more important than ever. National Bail Out is an organization helping bail out Black moms in time for Mother’s Day. The Women’s Prison Association provides necessary support to women in all stages of criminal justice involvement. Call your senator and local representative. Jail should be illegal, until then, we’ll continue to support organizations that are helping keep communities intact and home for Mother’s Day.

TONIC will continue to support National Bail Out this month by offering a percentage of our sales towards their efforts. You can support their mission by donating directly here via their fundraising page.


mothers daynational bail outwomens rights
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