Civil Rights Organizations Are Working To Help Families Impacted By The Prison System On Mother's Day

Here's one mother's story about her son's experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of women incarcerated in jails is growing at a faster rate than any other correctional population. Since 1970, the number of women in jail nationwide has increased 14-fold from under 8,000 to 110,000. Nearly 80 percent of those in jail have minor children, and a majority are primary caretakers. 

This means that our jail system, first and foremost, is a system of family separation.

Under the umbrella of the recently launched #SuingToSaveLives digital campaign, several civil rights organizations are aiming to humanize the story of incarcerated mothers, caregivers, and families that are without their loved ones during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic in light of this Mother’s Day. This Mother's Day, Youth Justice Coalition, JusticeLA, and Reform L.A. have formed a coalition in partnership with Forward Together, MomsRising, National Bail Out, and Zealous, to highlight the unfortunate reality and impact of family separation during a global health crisis.

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Mother’s Day is today, which makes the Los Angeles Sheriff’s decision all the more heartbreaking. All public visits for incarcerated communities in Los Angeles have been cancelled since March 13, pending further notice. They haven’t even allowed video calls. Put simply, many families don’t know when they’ll be able to see their moms again. 

The organizations in this partnership are hoping to have the county, state, and beyond donate to our Mother’s Day Fund, and will ensure 100 percent of contributions go towards moms and families impacted by our broken criminal justice system.

So many different folks can play the role of Mom — sisters, grandmothers, aunts, teachers, mentors, counselors — countless others can step up to the plate to show maternal love. They see and honor all of you and want you to be able to hold your babies close. 

Even in the best of times, these mothers are separated from their children with shatterproof glass and barbed wire. These mothers are in need of our community care, tangible support, and love more than ever. 

Sandra Soriano is spending this Mother's Day without her son, Angel, who is currently in a correctional fascility in Los Angeles. Here is her story:

“I haven’t seen my son since December of last year, and I don’t know when the next time I'll see him will be. He’s 22, his name is Angel, and he’s in L.A. Men's Central Jail. 

I’m a single mom and there’s no way I could afford the $9 million bail they set for Angel. 

He’s been there for over two years, waiting for his preliminary hearing. It’s been delayed twice, and now because of coronavirus, we don’t know when we’ll get a hearing.

My son is terrified. It’s hard for me to talk to him and be at ease -- it’s been a horrific ordeal, and I feel handicapped and heart broken. 

Angel is asthmatic and has liver damage, which puts him at much higher risk, and nothing is being done. 

He’s told me they have no hot water to shower with. They don’t have sanitary wipes or face masks and they’re forced to disperse trays of food to each other, and aren’t getting enough to eat. 

I told my son yesterday that he needs to keep physical distance, and he said ‘Mom, I’m literally in a four-man cell. There’s no way to keep distance. We’re crowded in here.’ He said, ‘they’re literally treating us like animals right now, and no one’s doing anything about it.’ 

My son hasn't even been convicted of a crime. My understanding is that we are innocent until proven guilty, and people in jails right now are being treated like they’re guilty, like they’re animals. They’re being denied a right to due process. 

The actions of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department are affecting not just people in jails, but families like mine who are suffering. 

My son was denied house arrest and bail reductions -- it’s unfair. They’re refusing to work with families. Angel is my eldest of three boys. His brothers look up to him and miss him greatly. 

I hope this story touches hearts, and that L.A. County leaders do the right thing. To all the moms and families out there: hang in there. God bless you and your families."


CLICK HERE to donate to the JusticeLA Refrom L.A. Jails Mother’s Day campaign.

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