On this packed two-hour edition of TRGGR Radio, Chris sits down for an expository interview with Lois Ahrens, the director of the Real Cost of Prisons in Massachusetts. We discuss the current human rights abuses facing inmates in Massachusetts prisons, including the invasive strip searching of female assigned prisoners. In the second hour we speak with organizer Malcolm Chu and Springfield community youth Penny Noel and Kalimah Dunwell who share the importance and ongoing projects of the housing justice organization Springfield No One Leaves / Nadie Se Mude (S.N.O.L.). We hear personal testimonies of Penny and Kalimah who are fighting against the increasing home foreclosures in Springfield, witnessing the resilience of inter-generational activism in the face of discriminatory displacement. Keep on the lookout for several upcoming actions, including a community takeover of a foreclosed home, a community-organized garden in a vacant lot, and a fundraiser CD release party.
Finally, we are joined by TRGGR-South fam, Dr. Jared Ball of Vox Union who provided a highlight of his earlier conversation with author Jeff Chang about Hip Hop and radical politics. Enjoy the sounds of resistance!
Since the late 1990s, the rate of women’s incarceration nationally has doubled that of incarcerated men. In 1980, there were roughly 14,000 women incarcerated nationally; by 2008 that number was well over 200,000. Although the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has the lowest rate of women imprisonment in the country (currently at 13 out of every 100,000 people), its population of incarcerated women and mothers is growing.
As of 2010, over 60% of “women in prison in the Commonwealth had been found guilty of nonviolent crimes such as drug and property offenses.” Currently there is a Bill before the Massachusetts legislature (H 2234) that “would establish minimum standards for the treatment and medical care of female inmates to promote safe, healthy pregnancy outcomes, prohibit shackling during childbirth, and ensure that release planning includes child custody and basic family planning information and services.”
According to the Bill’s Factsheet, “Nearly two-thirds of women in prison are mothers, and 77% of incarcerated mothers report providing most of the daily care for their children before incarceration. Further, according to the Bureau of Justice in 2007, 5% of women who enter into state prisons are pregnant, and 6% of women in jails are pregnant.”
The backgrounds, experiences, and needs of these women pre- and post-incarceration require our attention if we are to reverse these trends. Groups such as the Rebecca Project, the National Women’s Law Center, and locally the Prison Birth Project and The Real Cost of Prisons, among numerous other groups, have been crucial in bringing to public light the range of issues facing incarcerated women. A newly formed Boston-based organization, Families for Justice as Healing, seeks to “organize and mobilize families of those incarcerated for drug related offenses to join the movement toward creating criminal justice legislation that heals and rebuilds families and communities.” Joining us on the phone to talk about their work is the organization’s founder, Andrea James.