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Mother's Day American Style

by Izzy Mon May 12th, 2008 at 03:24:24 AM EST

"I've been actually able to see my mom and tell her how much I love her and how much I miss her."

Jada Pointer's tummy ache was cured with a smile.

It was the perfect smile: her mom's. The 9-year-old from Perris hadn't seen that comforting smile in more than a year.

Nine-year-old Albert Gonzalez held onto his mother's long hair like it was his lifeline. The boy from San Bernardino twisted it, tasted it, tangled it through his fingers and plucked a strand or two to save for later.

"I need it, Mommy," he said, gripping a strand in his hand. "I need it to take home."

These are the stories of the kids who take the annual Mother's Day bus ride to visit their moms in California's prisons.

Brought across by afew


For many, Friday's trip would be the only time they see their mothers this year. Some hadn't seen their mothers since birth.

Jada, a fourth-grader who is sensitive and eager to please, was not the only child whose stomach was tied up in knots.

Many skipped sleep the night before or awoke at 2 a.m. to be on the bus from Perris by 5 a.m. Of the 18 children on Jada's bus, one came alone, one came with his aunt and the rest were accompanied by the grandmothers who raise them. The youngest were the most carefree and eager to join games organized by volunteers on the bus. Some of the older children and first-time visitors were more pensive, quietly looking out their windows at the mountains and the Mojave dessert.

For their 17-hour trip, they got to spend roughly three hours visiting with their mothers in the prison visiting rooms and yards.

The visits are organized by the volunteer program, Get On The Bus, which was founded by Sister Suzanne Jabro of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.   The program seems to be largely run by nuns, concerned about poverty and distance keeping children from being able to visit their moms.  The first trip in 2000 took 7 children.  This year's trip carried over 600.

He calls himself a mama's boy, but 17-year-old Joshua Temple, of Hemet, has only seen his mother three times in the past six years.

He was with his mom when the police came to take her away. He was in the kitchen baking cookies with her when he heard the pounding on the door. He was only 11, but he knew that pounding meant the police were coming.

The Nation reports that over 200,000 women are incarcerated in the US and that approximately 80 percent of them are mothers.  Almost 90 percent of these prisoners are in for non-violent drug offenses.

Guanipa spent  the last ten and a half years locked in federal penitentiaries in Florida, locked away from her Miami community, her extended family and two young boys.

Her offense: She agreed to pick up a sealed package for a friend, which turned out to contain cocaine. Although Guanipa had never been arrested before--and had never been a drug user--she was hit with a thirteen-year "drug conspiracy" prison sentence on par with a sentence that a major drug trafficker would have received. Guanipa's good standing in the community, her lack of criminal background and the fact that she had a 1-year-old and a 2-year old had no impact on her sentence.

In California, according to a report prepared in 2000 (pdf link), an estimated 856,000 children had a parent "currently involved in California's adult criminal justice system, nearly nine percent of the state's children."

The 2000 report goes on to say that, in California, there is no state agency that tracks these children and that "the police and courts do not regularly inquire at the time of arrest or sentencing whether a prisoner has children."

Tania Borje beamed at her oldest, 12-year-old Jose, who excels in school and plans to become a wildlife biologist.

She held his cheeks, looked into his eyes and told him it wouldn't matter what others said about her being in prison.

"Life is not always perfect, but we love each other and we are family," she told him. She reminded him to have the courage to do what is right and help other people when he can.

He hung on her every word.

When released, the mothers who have been convicted of drug offenses will be ineligible for food stamps and other public assistance, including public housing.

"My heart just goes out to the children," said area coordinator Nancy Turk in Visalia this week. "They haven't committed any crimes. But without a doubt, they pay the highest price."

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The AP had an article yesterday about how some states are addressing the problem.

Nursery programs allow imprisoned moms, newborns to bond

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Three-week-old Kevin fussed in mother Melissa Lankey's arms until she started singing softly to him, "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so." The newborn began dozing within seconds.

"That's kind of our little song. It usually calms him right down," Lankey said.

Lankey did not sing the tune in the baby's bedroom. She was behind bars at the Indiana Women's Prison, where a new program allows some inmates to keep their newborns in their cells for up to 18 months.

The program debuted last month, becoming the sixth in the nation in a growing trend among state prison systems.



Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 02:10:16 AM EST
Thanks, Izzy. I can't think of a better way to talk about Mother's Day.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 04:17:04 AM EST
Thanks, afew.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 04:27:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Couldn't say any more. It makes me angry, this institutional violence against poor people, and I might get strident or something awful.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 05:04:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which is why I'm glad Izzy posted that and I encourage her to post more of these stories.

This should go on the front page at some point.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 07:05:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Gives a whole new meaning to mother's day. :-(
by Fran on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 12:55:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the diary Izzy.

European Tribune - Mother's Day American Style

When released, the mothers who have been convicted of drug offenses will be ineligible for food stamps and other public assistance, including public housing.

Argh!  It's that right wing, punish the immoral mentality.  To it's extreme.  The idea is that when you serve a prison sentence, you are being punished for your crime.  When released, that punishment should be over.

Who does it help to refuse public assistance after release?  It's a bigger cost for the state when people are left with no alternative but to resort to crime again to get hold of food for their children, clothes, anything to make life liveable.  Talk about taking opportunities right out of children's hands, perpetuating the cycle of poverty of crime.

Stupid policy makers. Stupid, stupid.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 04:31:06 AM EST
It angers me as well -- just more of our insane Drug War policies taken to the extreme.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 04:33:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The idea is that when you serve a prison sentence, you are being punished for your crime.  When released, that punishment should be over.

There are many examples of this punishment for life mentality in American laws.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 04:54:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not surprised by that.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 05:17:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, what do you think about things like public registers of sex offenders?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 07:37:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a tricky one but I'd say it is a different issue.  They may well have served their time but that does not necessarily mean that they are no longer a risk to the public.

You could probably argue that point for any other offender also.  I'm still in two minds about public registers of sex offenders because it can lead to people being victimised on an horrific level when they actually are no longer a risk or the level of offence that put them on the register does not necessarily equate to paedophilia (or they happen to have the same name as someone on the register, or were falsely accused).  I don't know what criteria put people on the register, is it any sex offence and aren't people removed after a certain length of time for some offences?  Can the public find out what the offence was?

What does the public gain from having access to that information?  Will they stop their children from going out, take alternative routes to the shops, scream blue murder about it at neighbourhood watch meetings?  

I can see the case for an awareness of friends/family members being on the register since most attacks are committed by people known to the victim.

Should people not exercise some degree of caution about their personal safety anyway?  Could knowing that Mr X in number 32 is on the register provide a false sense of 'security' that if he is avoided/intimidated then we'll all be fine? Or will they actually be safer for knowing? Can such things as random attacks from being in the wrong place at the wrong time be avoided?  

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 10:18:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What does the public gain from having access to that information?  Will they stop their children from going out, take alternative routes to the shops, scream blue murder about it at neighbourhood watch meetings?

There are apparently registers for sex offenders where I live (Virginia) and the State makes some of that information available to the public.  One of my friends and a neighbor, with small children, looked up and found that one of our close neighbors was a registered offender (pedophile).  This was information she considered important to know but I don't beleive she had any intention to harass the individual in any way.

Frankly, I don't consider any neighborhood in the US safe for small children anymore, and watching how parents guard their children, it would appear that my views are shared by many. So, knowing where pedophiles live is not really the answer. Eternal vigilance may be the price of liberty, but it also pays to keep a very close watch on your children no matter where you live. A sad commentary on modern society regardless.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 10:45:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not stupid. Why would you believe the policy makers actually want to stop crime ? It is so useful in helping getting elected.

Reminds me of Sarkozy who pulled cops out of the projects after the 2005 riots.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 05:14:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Then the measures are all wrong.
twisted mentality to perpetuate poverty and crime just to have something to keep 'doing'. screw the poor people, screw the planet.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 05:16:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, beyond rousing the flames of violence with unnecessary incendiary language, Sarkozy did another thing to raise crime : he suppressed the police de proximité, a type of beat cops that were supposed to know the neighborhood rather than act as cowboys.

He did this with a elaborate set up : when visiting a group of such policemen in Toulouse, one of his advisors asked them to talk about a rugby game they had played against kids from the 'hood ; a minor point, not the thing the cops wanted to put forward. When the policemen talked about it, as they had been told, Sarkozy ripped into them, saying it wasn't the police's job to play games with the youth, and went on to destroy the program.

Of course, the right wing governments keep on cutting the funds of the people whose job it is to play games with the youth and organise activities. Repression is much better than prevention for these politicians, as it happens after the crime, and thus allows to frighten people.

Yet another example being that it is getting harder to get parole, despite the fact that parole greatly reduces the risk of recidivism. Thankfully, such laws as "Three strikes and you're out" are unconstitutional in France, and the French justice system does partly cares about the felon's rights, meaning that the similar "peines planchers" law is resisted a bit.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 05:31:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
wow, that football story floored me. it fits with the personality he projects, perfectly. somewhere between snake and wharf-rat, it beats me why the french thought he would be a good leader, other than the media's attempt to build a cult of personality around him.

disgusting.

your story exemplifies your sig to a T

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 08:30:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, he said he had changed at the beginning of the presidential campaign. He said the same thing a few weeks ago. He'll say it again the next time his character gets over him and he starts to act like the attention-starved teenager he never developed from.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 09:06:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The narrative, folks, the narrative...
by Bernard (bernard) on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 04:00:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
well done, linca-

two most recent, grotesque examples: allemano in rome and boris in london

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 08:22:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
good diary.

Every time I think I've seen social and moral stupidity in the US system reach a peak, it turns out there's something beyond that that's even more stupid.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 06:03:16 AM EST
When I was a resident of Florida last, 50% of the prison population was there for drug offenses involving small amounts of pot with no violence and no weapons.

Some of us old dopers were luckier, or smarter, or ---lighter skinned.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 07:08:35 AM EST
especially that last one.  melanin-deficiency is the best way to stay out of trouble in today's America -- pretty much as it was in yesterday's America and for quite a few "days" now.

while we're on prison systems, how about

Over the last three decades 12 million Americans have lost the right to vote for all or most of their adult lives.

Prisoners Prohibited from Voting

We have been interviewing current and former prisoners in New York , Connecticut, and Ohio about their voting histories, attitudes about voting, and knowledge and understanding of the rules of disenfranchisement that apply to them.  We find that prior to disenfranchisement they registered and voted at rates similar to the general population (40 to 50 %) and most would like to do so again.

As few realize they have the right to vote, their registration and voting rates post-release are reduced to half of what they were before. This is accompanied by a time lag in getting back on the roles that effectively doubles the years of voting life lost to disenfranchisement.

A recent study by The Sentencing Project finds sharp disparities in the effects of disenfranchisement by race:  in Atlanta one of every seven African American males is disenfranchised. So as the imprisonment rate for blacks has climbed over 3 decades, long traditions of voting in many black families have been broken – each successive generation votes at lower rates than the previous one. This is true of all Americans since the 1960s, but the rates are most pronounced in black communities, where 30-40% of the men have been disenfranchised. A study by the University of Virginia School of Law finds that in states with the harshest disenfranchisement laws the overall voter turnout among African Americans is 13% lower than those who disenfranchise only for prison time.

And that may be no accident.

gee, ya think not?

the technique of establishing draconian punishments for minor offences, then enforcing those punishments with extreme racial bias, then disenfranchising the convicted, is as neat a "democratic" way of reversing universal suffrage and creating apartheid-in-all-but-name as you could wish.  those who follow US electoral history will probably be thinking "Southern Strategy" at this point.  yup...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 08:40:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you, Izzy - for a good but sad diary. I don't really know what to comment.
by Fran on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 12:56:08 PM EST
everywhere, the ones that celebrated last Sunday, or this Sunday and especially to those that never heard this day exists!!!

Thank you, Izzy!!!!  It´s good to read you.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 03:54:31 PM EST
so infuriating to see such stories, where the punishment so far outweighs the 'crime' it amplifies the negativity that exacerbated the 'crime' in the first place.

self-perping vicious cycle, those poor kids...

between this and nomad's, i think i'll have a cry now, what a waste...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 08:33:46 PM EST
founder of the website Prison Planet is dismissed as a paranoid delusional CT promoting nutcase by David Rothkopf author of Superclass yet Alex will cover the tazering of pregnant wheelchair bound handcuffed women when American corporate mainstream media thinks the color of Paris Hilton's underwear is a far more major story.  Tell me again how this is "Sustainable".
Yes, I am a born here, raised in America, American having read 3/4 of the book Superclass, which is prompting me to seek out membership in the local Communist Party.
by Lasthorseman on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 08:37:35 PM EST
I don't know why anyone would want to celebrate a giant winged monster who destroys Japanese cities and constantly fights with Godzilla.
by Lupin on Mon May 12th, 2008 at 05:44:00 AM EST


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