As the number of incarcerated people have increased in the U.S., so too have incarcerated parents.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice Statistics, over 58% of all women inside prisons are mothers; in jails, the figure is 80%, and the vast majority are nonviolent offenders unable to afford bail.
A 2017 report by the National Institute of Justice Journal found that 1.7 million to 2.7 million children, or about 11% of all children in the U.S., have had parents who are incarcerated at least once in their childhood.
As a way to honor Mother’s Day this year, Prison Journalism Project curated a selection of essays and poems by, for and about mothers.
How My Mom Saved the School Year by C.R. Addleman: A writer recollects how his mother’s love and perseverance provided the support he needed to get an education. “My mom used positive thoughts to bring about positive results.”
Love For My Mothers by Michael Mackey: A poet describes how his mother’s being permeates all aspects of life. “A mother’s love is the manner in which a house is run,” he writes.
Love, Mom Project: A Mother and Son’s Shared Experience of Incarceration by Sylvia Hunsuckle: In this letter to her son, a mother reflects on their relationship now that they are both in prison. “I see now that you were just trying to have that mother-son relationship we had when you were younger,” she writes. “Now that both of us are in prison, we’re getting there.”
Mother in Prison, Son in Jail by Chanell Burnette: “As my child sits in his jail cell, I sit in my prison cell,” writes a mother in an account about her and her son’s shared experience of incarceration. “He is scared for his future, and I’m ashamed of my past.”
‘Dear Momma’: A Letter With All the Things I Should Have Said by Brandon J. Baker: A writer apologizes to his mother for everything he wishes he could have said and done before she passed. “You lost me, but the world lost you, and for that I’m deeply remorseful.”
Love, Mom Project: Parenting From Behind These Walls by Asja Aguirre: “Your granny is there / Standing in my place / Doing all the things I can’t / Keeping you safe.”
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.