Dignity for Incarcerated Parents: ROOTS Members Shifting Culture and Policy

As many of us celebrate our mothers and parents this weekend, we’re highlighting the efforts of ROOTS members who are working for better care for incarcerated mothers/parents and their children. Our members are leading a movement for dignity for incarcerated women. This movement encompasses a wide variety of reforms to provide dignity to incarcerated people capable of have children, including banning shackling during delivery, access to medical care and menstrual products, preventing sexual assault, and making it easier for their families to visit. Read on to learn more about the good work ROOTS members are doing in Georgia, Louisiana, and North Carolina!

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Member Spotlight: Dr. Krystal Redman, SPARK

One effort to pass these reforms in Georgia was led by ROOTS member Dr. Krystal Redman along with her colleagues Erin Gloster and Randi Gregory. Their organization, SPARK has been collaborating with other community partners and legislators to push “Dignity Behind Bars” legislation, which would have provided better access to menstrual products, access to breast milk pumps after delivery, and make it easier for children to visit parents. You can read the full bill here.

While the Dignity Bill did not pass, a compromise bill, HB 345, which bans any pregnant person from being shackled during pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum did pass. While work still remains to be done, SPARK’s work has brought us a huge step closer to respecting dignity and health of people behind bars. Folks can support this legislation bysubscribing to SPARK’s newsletter and receiving updates on their continued work.

Member Spotlight: Annie Freitas and Mary Okoth, Operation Restoration

Operation Restoration (OR) is committed to creating a community where women and girls in the Greater New Orleans area have access to the full range of support necessary to successfully re-enter society following incarceration. OR’s Rapid Response assists clients and their families with emergency expenses incarcerated women incur while seeking stable housing and employment. In the last three months of 2018, OR provided assistance to 41 women, 88% of them identified as Black and all of them had dependant children. To help further OR’s daily support of women and girls who are directly impacted by incarceration, please donate to OR’s Rapid Response fund by clicking here!

While OR understands the importance of providing direct service to women and girls impacted by incarceration, they also believe that it is equally important to create legislative change. In 2017, OR researched, wrote, and advocated for the passage of the Louisiana Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act. The Act was passed and provides basic human rights to women in prison. Follow this link to learn more about the Louisiana Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act.

Member Spotlight: Nikki Brown, SpiritHouse

In North Carolina, member Nikki Brown and her colleagues at SpiritHouse have been using art creativity and culture to strengthen black families and communities. Their performance piece Collective Sun features striking depictions of incarcerated people giving birth while shackled. The conversation that this piece created helped spark a movement that led to the prohibition of shackling pregnant inmates in North Carolina. They have also done advocacy work around ban the box legislation and advocated to raise the age that a young person can be tried as an adult. You can stay up to date on SpiritHouse’s latest work by following them on Facebook. If you are looking for tools to educate yourself and your community, SpiritHouse provides a documentary series and book study tool available on their website.

Alternate ROOTS supports the creation and presentation of original art that is rooted in communities of place, tradition or spirit. We are a group of artists and cultural organizers based in the South creating a better world together. As Alternate ROOTS, we call for social and economic justice and are working to dismantle all forms of oppression—everywhere.