Mother’s Day is quickly approaching and that means many businesses will be bustling with moms and families. Restaurants will be booked for brunch, mantles will be lined with greeting cards and vases will be overflowing with flowers. Sunday, May 12th is officially Mother’s Day. But some moms will be forced to celebrate behind bars.
The National Bail Out program is a black-led and black-centered collective working to end pretrial detention. “We all have had someone that cared for us and loved us and mothered us in some way,” said Arissa Hall, a director of National Bail Out, “But we recognize that our conversation about the criminal justice system is very masculine, and those that we oftentimes erase and leave behind are our mamas and our caregivers.”
Keeping that same energy, the National Bail Out team will bail out as many black mothers as it can for its third consecutive Mother’s Day this year. The #FreeBlackMamas campaign has extended to Columbus, with local activist Stacey Little helping to lead the charge. Participants include organizations like Restoring Our Own Through Transformation (ROOTT) and Women Have Options Ohio, as well as individual volunteers.
“I was adamant about the focus being on black moms simply because we know that black folks are disproportionately incarcerated,” Little said. “We’re going to bail out as many moms as we possibly can with the money that we’ve collected.”
The efforts of Little and the National Bail Out team reach beyond getting women out of jail. Citing the financial and social impact of pretrial detention and bail payment on communities of color, activists are calling for an elimination of those systems.
“Most of the bodies that we have locked up here in Franklin County are pretrial, meaning they have yet to be found guilty or not guilty,” said attorney Tabitha Woodruff, who is participating in the Columbus bail out. “It spends a lot of taxpayer dollars unnecessarily imprisoning people. And the end result often is that they’re losing their jobs. They then lose their apartments. They then lose custody of their children even if they are ultimately found not guilty. So it’s just an egregious injustice that people seem to have very little awareness about.”
Earlier this year, the Ohio Supreme Court established a task force to examine the Ohio Bail System. The State of California became the first state to abolish cash bail.
While it will take the criminal justice system a while to find its footing on the issue, the NBO members provide immediate assistance to the released moms through wraparound services, as well as a Free Black Mamas Fellowship to help strengthen their leadership skills.
Attempting to bail people out means money is always needed, NBO is doing what they can to get sponsors and donations. Fortunately, people outside of the legal or activist community are doing what they can to raise funds.
Stand Up for Choice is a quarterly comedy event that will be supporting the Mother’s Day Bail Out with its forthcoming show at Ace of Cups, Tuesday, April 30.
“It made the most sense for us … to partner with the group that was working on getting mothers out of the system who haven’t been convicted of anything,” said co-host Pat Deering, referencing the current political climate, exacerbated by Ohio’s recently passed six-week abortion ban. ”[Especially] in the face of this push from the Statehouse to criminalize more women trying to take control of their reproductive health.”
“This isn’t the only bail out that we’re going to do,” Little said. “The end goal is to actually start a community bail fund. … We really want to start something that benefits the community as a whole.”