Midwest Pages to Prisoners Bowl-A-Thon

I am once again participating in the Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project’s annual Bowl-A-Thon fundraising event. In this event, pages volunteers bowl and get sponsors to donate fixed amounts or based on their bowling score! Please consider sponsoring me for this event. To sponsor me you can use the online donation form at http://www.terrorware.com/tools/bowlathon (donations will be collected via PayPal), or speak with me in person.

The Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project is a project that I have volunteered with for a number of years. Simply put, the project sends free reading materials to people who are in prison or jail. These books are important to the recipients because many don’t have access to prison libraries or can’t afford to order books elsewhere. Books are requested for a variety of reasons ranging from self-education to supplementing institutional education programs to religious study to pleasure reading. In addition to providing a nice service to people, the act of sending books and letters helps to create a dialog or connection between people with very different life experiences and backgrounds. For more information about the project, see the project’s website at pagestoprisoners.org or contact midwestpagestoprisoners@yahoo.com.

The Bowl-A-Thon event is this coming Saturday April 28, but donations can be made until May 5.

Important notes about donating:

  • All pledges above $10 are tax deductible. If you would like your donation to be tax deductible, let me know and I will provide you with a form.
  • There is no minimum pledge and you can help without giving money. If you can’t afford to make a monetary donation, please consider donating books, packing materials, or your volunteer time to the project. Contact midwestpagestoprisoners@yahoo.com for details.
  • You can donate in two ways
    1. Per point. If you pledge 10 cents a point and the person you’re sponsoring has a final score is 76, they will owe $7.60.
    2. Flat rate. You agree to donate a fixed amount independent of the person you sponsor’s score.


So I’m still pretty transfixed on the population growth map from the New York Times that I wrote about a while ago.  I came across these two maps that were pretty damn intriguing.  One is of prison proliferation over the last century, and one is about privatized prisons and immigration enforcement.  It’s amazing all the things beyond geography that can be represneted with maps:

I ended up using one of the maps in a flyer for Pages’ upcoming Pack-A-Thon event:

Prisons Often Shackle Pregnant Inmates in Labor

I originally posted this over at the midwest pages to prisoners blog.

I came across this article today that describes the surprisingly prevalent practice of shackling incarcerated women while they are in labor. Apparently, only Illinois and California have laws expressly prohibiting this practice. Other states have formal policies banning the practice, and some others claim to have informal policies. The article states that “Many states justify restraints because the prisoners remain escape risks, though there have apparently been no instances of escape attempts by women in labor.”

The article also provides some statistics about the number of pregnant women who are incarcerated:

About 5 percent of female prisoners arrive pregnant, according to a 1999 report by the Justice Department. The Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group, estimates that 40,000 women are admitted to the nation’s prisons each year, suggesting that 2,000 babies are born to American prisoners annually.

Finally, a quote by one nurse gives a distressing picture of incarcerated childbirth:

“Here this young woman was in active labor,” Ms. Simpson wrote, “handcuffed to the armed guard, wearing shackles, in her orange outfit that was dripping wet with amniotic fluid. Her age: 15!”



I asked my friend Tess, who is studying social work at Indiana University and is doing her practicum at the Indiana Womens Prison (IWP) up in Indianapolis about incarcerated mothers in Indiana, and this is what she had to say:

i am not too in-tune with a lot of specifics at IWP, but i have done a lot of research on the subject. every pregnant woman that is sentenced to prison in indiana stays at IWP. we have a great family preservation program, including an RN, casemanager and a social worker. the RN, Ms. Jura Finn, has a pre-natal group that meets once or twice a week. in that group, they eat healthy food and talk about parenting issues. the family preservation staff also help the women set up placement for the child until she is released from prison. when they go into labor, pregnant offenders give birth at wishard hospital in indianapolis, without shackles or handcuffs. guards are in the hospital, as well. the father or the child or the offender’s mother is allowed to be present in the room, too. i am unsure how long they get to stay with the baby…

overall, i was under the impression that amnesty international’s expose in the late 90s about women being forced to give birth in shackles had kinda ended the practice. it’s unfortunate that it still happens. also, if arkansas only has about 50 incarcerated women giving birth a year, it doesn’t surprise me; they don’t have enough experience with pregnant women. i was glad to read that certain nurses are putting their feet down with guards. it would never happen in indiana, b/c indiana does not think that women can committ offenses that warrant maximum security precautions (under revamped legislation from mitch daniels). i am really interested in prison nurseries and residential programs for incarcerated women and their infants. there are only three prison nurseries in existence right now: 2 in new york (one being the bedford hills correctional facility which has been around since 1901!) and another in nebraska. short-term studies have found that these programs really are effective in reducing recidivism, but not enough research has been done. a lot of programs that exist to keep the new mother and new child together put a lot of emphasis on breaking cycles of incarceration and forming healthy bonds of attachment. programs called MINT (mothers and infants nursing together) in california, MILK (mothers inside loving kids) in virginia, WIAR (women and infants at risk) in michigan. if yr mother gave birth to you in prison, you have a greater chance of doing time later in life (that’s true of any child with an incarecerated parent). also, the bonds of attachment that form right after a child is born are so important to typical development. if you do not have a care-giver to attach to, it could cause emotional and behavior challenges throughout yr entire life. wow.

Family Prison Cells

I posted this at the Midwest Pages to Prisoners Blog.

This is an interesting follow up to my post earlier this week about mothers in prison.  This image is from a Spanish prison that has cell units for families, allegedly the only such facilities in the world.

On a related note, the Women of Color Blog has some recent posts about children of incarcerated parents and the US detaining undocumented immigrant families.

From the post about children of incarcerated parents:

At age nine, Dave was left alone with his baby brother after their mother was arrested. Dave–who was 19 at the time of this intereview–went on to foster care and then college. He never learned why his mother had been arrested, and saw her only once after the day of her arrest.

I was nine when my mom got arrested. The police came and took her. I was trying to ask them what was going on and they wouldn’t say, and then everything went so fast. I guess they thought someone else was in the house. I don’t know. But nobody else was in the house. They arrested her and just left us there.

For two or three weeks I took care of my one-year-old brother and myself. I knew how to change his diapers and feed him and stuff. I tried to make breakfast in the morning and I burnt my hand trying to make toast. I had a blister.

I wasn’t really afraid. I was just trying to take care of my brother. That was my goal–to take care of him. Sometimes he would cry because he probably would want to see my mom.

When my mom was there, every day we used to take my little brother for a walk in the stroller. I still did that every day, even though my mom wasn’t there. Her friend across the street saw us and I guess she figured out something was wrong. She called Child Protective Services and they came and took us.

My mom did come back eventually, but by that time we were already gone. All I know is that they just rushed me in the system and that was that. They didn’t tell me why I can’t go back with my mom.

I was sent to a temporary foster home and my brother was in a different foster home. Then I got placed in the foster home where I live now. I’ve been there for about eight years.

I felt bad about being seperated from my brother. I should have had visits with my brother, to at least know exactly where he was. I just prayed that he was doing OK. During that time we were split up, my mom died. So then I was really mad because my brother was the only person I had left of my family and I didn’t know where he was.

I think when the police first arrested my mom, they should have looked around the house and seen that we were there by ourselves. Then I wouldn’t have had to take care of my brother for that long.

The police should sit down and talk with you. Explain the situation. Why, and what are they going to do with you? How long do they think your mother is going to be there? And don’t just say, “She’ll be out in a couple of days, we’re going to put you in foster care and she’ll get you back,” and then you don’t never get back out. They should just be honest with you and tell you what’s going on.