MOTHERS DAY, May 13th: Mothers Smashing the Prison Industrial Complex & Mothers Speaking Out for Their Children in Solitary Confinement (Hear Audio)

Mother’s Day provides an opportunity to honor and celebrate our given and chosen families.  For those of us fighting the prison industrial complex, Mother’s Day can also provide an opportunity to reflect on the ways the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) attacks and disrupts our families. 

The good news is that all over the world moms are leading the charge against the PIC.

In the United States more than 1.7 million minors have at least one parent in prison.  As we all know, the effects of a parent’s imprisonment on family life can be devastating.  Children may be shuffled between family members, wind up in foster care, or forced into other vulnerable positions.  They may have infrequent visits with their parents if they get to see them at all.  Even if parents get out of prison, reunification with their kids may be difficult or impossible, and the stress of living with a felony conviction or under conditions of parole can add additional hardship to family life.  And the burden on those left to become primary caregivers—grandparents, sisters and brothers, family friends—heaps additional strain on networks already frayed by the daily pressures of life.  For families of imprisoned people, bad news abounds.

The good news is that all over the world moms are leading the charge against the PIC.  While the efforts of many parents to erode the hold the PIC has on their lives go unrecognized, just a few examples help us remember how many people are fighting in so many different, creative, and beautiful ways. The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, for example have provided inspiration to people around the world as they held weekly vigils in honor of their children that had been disappeared by the Argentine dictatorship.  Their persistence and public presence in the face of crushing government repression kept the practice of disappearing activists and dissidents in public attention and through sharing their stories, many of the mothers became increasingly politicized, with a number of them taking up their children’s activism.

Mother-led and -initiated projects target all aspects of the PIC.  For instance, organizing efforts led by Iris Baez, Kadiatou Diallo, Doris Busch Boskey, Meshá Mongé-Irizarry, whose children were all killed by police helped draw attention to the violence and racism of policing. Organizations such as Resource Information for the Disadvantaged (RIHD), Mother’s Reclaiming Our Children (Mother’s ROC) and its organizational offspring, the Coalition against Three Strikes and Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes demonstrate how outrage and agitation around a single case of one mother’s son can be transformed into a powerful force against sentencing practices more broadly. The Center for Young Women’s Development’s Young Mothers United program, Women on the Rise Telling HerStory (WORTH) and support campaigns for hunger strikers from the North of Ireland, to Palestine, to Ohio help shine a light on the brutal conditions so many prisoners endure. Organizations such as Mothers on the Move remind us that prisons and jails are toxic for our communities.

While these few examples are just the tip of the organizing iceberg headed for the PIC, they offer us a useful reminder that even in the face of the substantial harms families face from imprisonment and policing, their fire to fight is often only stoked by that pressure.  This Sunday, when you’re thinking about the mothers in your life, don’t forget to raise a toast to the ones fighting for all of us.

from Critical Resistance:


After you celebrate Mother's Day, please take a moment to listen to the mothers' voices who speak out for their children who are in solitary confinement.

When a child is in solitary, a parent or loved one cannot touch the child.  Human contact (except with the prison guards!) is forbidden in all or most solitary confinement prisons in the U.S.  

The ACLU in New York has recorded these mama's voices (from all over the U.S.) and asks you to stand with them on Mothers' Day.