Congressman Danny Davis, in partnership with the Illinois Department of Corrections and about a dozen community organizations, hosted a Mother’s Day event last weekend for incarcerated moms.
Davis said in an interview the event was part of his larger work helping those leaving prison with their reentry to society.
While the greatest proportion of those incarcerated are African American men, he said, “the fastest growing part of the prison population are young, African American females.”
“I don’t know what life would have been for me if I had not had the presence of my mother,” Davis said at last week’s event. In an earlier statement, Davis noted that “mothers who are incarcerated produce cataclysmic effects for all to consider.”
The vast majority of people, regardless of their age, return home from prison, and many struggle to reintegrate into society, he said.
“We look for ways to assist people to return to normal life in normal society. And so, that’s what today is really about,” Davis said.
The event was hosted as a Zoom call from the Westside Community Triage and Wellness Center (4133 W. Madison St.) and was seen at multiple IDOC facilities.
The event’s community partners focus on a broad spectrum of assistance, from job assistance and housing assistance to medical care for both adults and children and legal services.
A number of the representatives from the groups said they knew what the women were dealing with because they themselves had been incarcerated.
“I did 13 Mother’s Days incarcerated, so I know exactly how you feel and what you’ve been going through,” said Maria Moon, a housing justice organizer with the Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance.
They helped pass the Just Housing Initiative, a policy to protect people with records from housing discrimination in Cook County, she said.
Moon said she knows about “the places in your head, especially in the middle of the night,” and the guilt, shame and dehumanization many of those who are incarcerated feel.
“I hope that I’m a reflection of you all. I hope that you can see what you can be and what you can do,” she said.
Yolanda Pena, co-founder of Life Impacters Foundation, said her organization is there to “walk alongside” the women in their journey returning from incarceration.
Pena said she knows what it’s like to “come out and have that X on your back.” And “finding myself in places that became very shameful. So I want to be able to give you that opportunity that I wasn’t given,” she said.
“We hope to see you when you come out.”
Deborah Williams, Habilitative Systems Inc.‘s community outreach and engagement specialist, told the women the Westside Community Triage and Wellness Center, where Saturday’s event was held, is open as a “place to come whenever you’re feeling some type of way.”
The triage center provides services for substance abuse and mental health, outpatient therapy for adults and children, and housing assistance, she said. It’s open from 9 a.m. to midnight.
“Housing is health,” Williams said. When someone has a safe place to stay, “they won’t be out getting into any type of trouble.”
One of the inmates on the Zoom call thanked the attendees for “acknowledging us as mothers, because so many times we are counted out because we’re incarcerated.”
She said many of the incarcerated women, despite their circumstances, are mothering and mentoring their children in any way they can.
“We are mothers, and we do reach for our children as much as possible.” She said Saturday’s event was “the love that we need to show us that we are mothers.”