By Samantha Sarra/ From Truth Out
For mothers behind bars, the prison walls are held up with patriarchy, racism and poverty. Injustice is the mortar that holds together the bricks of the prison industrial complex and the handcuffs worn by female inmates are still tightly linked to the shackles of slavery and oppression.
A law passed by the New Jersey Legislature in February 1804 declared the children born to slave mothers to be “free” at birth, but they still remained bound as servants to their mother’s owners until their 20s. Two hundred years later and true abolition has yet to take place with the continued racialized criminalization of poverty and mothers behind bars, whose children remain bound to generational cycles of trauma and discrimination.
The legacy of children being entangled in the repercussions of legislation continues as Republican Governor Bill Haslam passed a law last month in Tennessee criminalizing women for their pregnancy outcomes. The law, which will disproportionately affect already marginalized mothers, would make it a crime to carry a pregnancy to term if you struggle with addiction or substance abuse. The punitive prosecution of pregnant mothers, charging them with criminal assault rather than creating better access to health care, was a move opposed by major medical associations, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the American Civil Liberties Union. (more…)