Mothers’ Day is meant to celebrate all of the emotions and dedication that go into nurturing our children into adulthood. One way to help alleviate a particular hardship that many mothers face in caring for their children is to help bail a mother out of jail so that she can be home to help care for her family. It’s a meaningful way to give while also combatting the inequality of a justice system that makes poor and working people face jail time simply because they cannot afford to pay to get out.
Bail is an amount of money that the courts can require people accused of committing a crime to pay in order to be able to stay home and continue to work, parent, and live freely while waiting for their trial. All people facing bail have a few things in common: they have been accused of some form of criminal conduct; they are innocent until proven guilty; they are waiting for their trial date to happen so that they may defend themselves; and if they cannot afford to pay the bail (or an authorized percentage of the bail, called “bond”), they must remain in jail for the weeks, months, or years until trial. People facing bail are sometimes accused of committing violent crimes, but far more frequently, they face charges of nonviolent misdemeanors that, even if proved, would result in just a fine or in less time in prison than they spent waiting in jail to
resolve their cases.
When people are unable to pay their bail, the entire family suffers. While stuck in jail an accused often loses her job, housing, custody of her children, and any financial safety net she had managed to save. Nearly a half million people are in jail on any given day, unable to pay bail, and 95% of all jail population growth between 2000-2014 came from people who were ultimately found not guilty.
To help draw attention to this problem and to give direct assistance to those locked up for the sole reason that they are too poor to pay for their release, National Bailout Day programs have arisen around the country on Mother’s Day. Why Mother’s Day? 80 percent of the women in jail are mothers, most of them primary caretakers of their children. Over the last thirty years, the number of women imprisoned in state and federal prisons rose by 908 percent in the United States. The vast majority of these women faced non-violent charges, mostly drug or property crimes. These women are disproportionately women of color, with a tremendous racial disparity that highlights the injustices built into the system—including who gets charged, who gets bail, and how much it is.
So, consider supporting this year’s National Bail Out. You can join the Cook County Jail Mother’s Day Vigil, donate toiletries for their drive, or look for similar events. As our country continues down its path of mass incarceration, as we lock up asylum seekers, immigrant children, and people whose only crime is being too poor to pay a fine, consider being a voice against these systemic problems. Your mother would be proud.
Join us for the 5th annual Incarcerated Mother’s Day vigil and toiletry drive outside Cook County Jail, Sat, May 12th, noon. Bring shampoo, soap, tampons or pads for women inside if you can #IncarceratedMomsDay #FreeThemAll https://t.co/HY7aJ3Ahz0 pic.twitter.com/PjZKEttYie
— MUAVI (@MomsUnitedChi) April 9, 2018