Forget the spa days and roses. For mothers in jail, Mother's Day can be a painful reminder of the family back at home that they're not able to spend time with — and both transgender moms and mothers of color make up a disproportionate amount of those jailed mamas, according to several activist groups. To help shine a light on the issue and bring families together, a coalition of 25 different groups worked together this year to launch Mama's Bail Out Day, an initiative to bail out jailed moms before Mother's Day.
The group of organizations, which included advocacy groups such as Black Lives Matter and Southerners on New Ground, aimed to raise $250,000 in order to bail out moms who were in jail for minor offenses and had yet to go to trial. The initiative was more successful than it had expected to be: according to NBC, the organizations raised about $400,000 by Mother's Day, and more than 50 women were bailed out of jail in cities across the United States using the funds.
The women Mama's Bail Out Day aimed to free before Mother's Day weren't, of course, felons. According to Fast Company, most were jailed due to relatively harmless offenses, such as drug possession or loitering. However, approximately 62 percent of those in jail are unable to come up with bail money, so they must simply wait for a court date, despite the fact that they have yet to be proven guilty. That can prove immensely difficult on their children.
"When you have mothers who are incarcerated, you have children who are destabilized," Bonita Lacy, executive director of the non-profit Healing Hearts told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "The children have to go stay with friends or family members or sometimes a neighbor just so they can stay in school … It really destroys the family unit. Lots of times the fathers are not the primary caregivers, the mothers are."
The number of women in jail has increased eight-fold since the 1980s, and that number only continues to grow, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Women of color represent 30 percent of all incarcerated women (despite only accounting for 13 percent of the overall population in the United States), and one in five transgender women has also spent time in jail. Those numbers are far too high, and considering that almost 80 percent of women in jail have children (with many of those moms raising their children on their own), activists believe bail costs are too high.
If you're surprised that $400,000 was only enough money to bail out a handful of women jailed for low-level crimes, that's the point of Mama's Bail Out Day. According to NBC, the pay gap means black women are frequently underpaid, despite often being the breadwinners of their families, and their families simply cannot afford bail. Mothers are then behind bars for months while waiting for a court date, further entrenching their families in the cycle of poverty.
Mother's Day may be over, but you can still help bail mamas out of jail. Check out Mama's Bail Out Day online and use their donation page to contribute to organizations that continue to fight for jailed mothers' freedom.