Since I joined Ticicalli I have thought of and worked towards supporting mothers in prison. This is due to the fact that mothers in prison are some of the most vulnerable womyn here in the United States because they are judged harshly and are often forgotten. Also because I see myself in these womyn I’ve just had a bit more luck along my life’s journey. The innocent children are left behind and suffer the most, as a society we must think of them before we demand harsh criminal sentences to mothers. I believe that everything in this universe is interconnected and what happens to one affects us all. As a “justice system” we also have to realize that how it is filled with institutionalized racism and classism.
Who are these womyn? And why should we support them? Most womyn in U.S. jails and prisons are womyn of color affected by historical transgenerational trauma of colonization, genocide, slavery, rape etc. They come from low income communities that lack resources, quality schools, employment opportunities, quality food, etc. Due to the lack of important things that enhance quality of life there is high crime rate, drug and alcohol addiction, prostitution, violence, etc. According to FAMM, more than 56% of women in federal prison are mothers, the majority are non-violent drug offenders. Although these womyn live in less than optimal living conditions they are usually very resourceful and resilient which allow them to be able to survive but the challenges often outweigh the strengths and very few are able to thrive and live a different way of life.
As mothers I feel we all do our best we can do with the information and support we have. The womyn inside jail and prison walls I believe are no different than any of us but usually have little to no support which may lead to disastrous life’s decisions. Most have a history of substance abuse, dependency of system and/or men, and mental illness. Also often have history of physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse usually by family members and/or close friends. Many times they are from single parent homes and have one or more family members with a history of incarceration. It is difficult to break the chain of abuse and to learn how to love in healthy ways. How can we love someone else when we often do not have any love for ourselves?
When I see that trauma death which includes homicide and suicide as the number one cause of maternal mortality, it is evidence on how trauma manifests in mental illness and violence especially with the added stress of motherhood. Often we create children in less than prime environments because of learned lack of autonomy for our bodies and the neighborhoods we live in. If incarcerated while pregnant we create one of the most stressful and damaging environments for a baby to develop. Think about it the meals do not offer proper nutrition, there are no bathtubs or even bath mats in showers, the buildings are filled with cold concrete floors, many have little to no exposure to sunlight and fresh air, and they are very isolated. As Dr Gabor Mate stated, “How we provide supportive environment or stressful environment has a huge impact on the long term development of the unborn baby.”
As stated before this could have been me, I too have a lot of trauma, struggle with depression and anxiety, and am still learning what healthy love is and healthy relationships look like. The difference is I have been lucky to have found a support system and organizations that have helped me initiate healing and create changes in myself. I have learned about the importance of things such as: self-love, emotional intelligence, healthy communication, and much more. We need to end the cycle of violence, trauma, etc. and heal ourselves and our children. As a mother I try to provide to other mothers: empathy, support, resources, and information. Instead of judging mothers I attempt to learn their story, walk in their shoes, and remember that each one is doing the best they can under almost impossible circumstances. All I can do is create support systems in my community and find creative and effective ways to distribute known resources to as many womyn and families as possible.
We are resourceful and resilient and we cannot settle for just surviving we have the capacity to heal and thrive!
Listed below are some groups in Los Angeles that I know provide resources and support for mothers and families and/or are helping with policy changes in creating alternatives to incarceration. If you all know of more please let others know. Thank you, we need to support one another for the good of our children and the world.
International network for recognition & payment for all caring work, and the return of military spending to the community starting with women the main care givers everywhere.
Critical Resistance seeks to build an international movement to end the Prison Industrial Complex by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe. We believe that basic necessities such as food, shelter, and freedom are what really make our communities secure. As such, our work is part of global struggles against inequality and powerlessness. The success of the movement requires that it reflect communities most affected by the PIC. Because we seek to abolish the PIC, we cannot support any work that extends its life or scope.
Prototypes’ mission is to rebuild the lives of women, children and communities impacted by substance abuse, mental illness and domestic violence. We promote self-sufficiency while ensuring safety and shelter for those in need.
Our goal at the Village is to give you, our clients, and the practical lifestyle tools for taking charge of your own health. As one’s health improves, so too does the quality of one’s life. Come to one of our events and let your voice be heard. Be part of our growing community where diversity is always valued, where there is an antidote for physical and emotional pain, and where the possibility of a long healthy life is available to everyone.
Our Perinatal Outreach and Education program reaches out to women in the greater downtown Los Angeles and East Los Angeles areas to provide short-term assistance, case management, health education and support.
The mission of Un Paso Mas is to provide caring, culturally relevant services to these diverse, underserved communities. Un Paso Mas and Project Return Peer Support Network are responding to the tremendous needs in this part of the county, where there are limited mental health services and support groups.
The Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) is working to build a youth, family, and formerly and currently incarcerated people’s movement to challenge America’s addiction to incarceration and race, gender and class discrimination in Los Angeles County’s, California’s and the nation’s juvenile and criminal injustice systems. The YJC’s goal is to dismantle policies and institutions that have ensured the massive lock-up of people of color, widespread law enforcement violence and corruption, consistent violation of youth and communities’ Constitutional and human rights, the construction of a vicious school-to-jail track, and the build-up of the world’s largest network of jails and prisons. We use transformative justice and community intervention/peacebuilding, FREE LA High School, know your rights, legal defense, and police and court monitoring to “starve the beast” – promoting safety in our schools, homes and neighborhoods without relying on law enforcement and lock-ups, preventing system contact, and pulling people out of the system. We use direct action organizing, advocacy, political education, and activist arts to agitate, expose, and pressure the people in charge in order to upset power and bring about change. –
The mission of Echo Parenting & Education is to support and facilitate child raising rooted in connection and empathy. We teach parents, teachers and others who strongly influence children’s lives an approach that integrates current research in human development and trauma-informed care with the practice of nonviolence.
The mission of Maternal Mental Health NOW is to remove barriers to the prevention, screening and treatment of prenatal and postpartum depression in Los Angeles County.