CHICAGO (CBS) — This Mother’s Day, more than 200,000 women nationwide will spend the holiday in jail or prison.
“When the women go to prison, the children suffer,” said Maria Moon, who went to prison when she was 22. “My son is testifying about my incarceration and how it affected him, how he felt isolated.”
Moon and a few dozen others spent Friday afternoon rallying in front of the Thompson Center to raise awareness about the mass incarceration of mothers across the country.
Terry Harris was only 3-years old when Moon was sent away for 13 years.
“At first I didn’t understand. I knew she went away, but it affected me in every way. I acted out. I’d see other kids’ mothers pick them up from school, hug them and they’d ask me where my mother was,” he recalled.
“I remember only visiting my mom once when she was a way. At first it was at the Cook County jail. At that is the most painful thing, to be young, to need your mom and to only be able to connect with her through a glass window,” Harris said.
But transportation programs for these kids has been cut, due to the going budget stalemate.
“We need a budget so these government agencies can be funded. We also need help for women who return to society after prison,” said Collette Payne, Cabrini Green Legal Aid.
“When you think about incarceration, it starts from somewhere. People don’t grow up wanting to go to prison,” she said.
Payne said the Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers or CLAIM supports women and their children while they are in prison.
“Our reunification ride program takes caregivers and the children to see their mothers. That program is run by Lutheran Social Services. We take families 180 miles to state prisons and because they cut that program, we can only go to one of the prisons,” Payne said.
“I only got to see my children a couple of times because of the lack of programs,” Moon said.
“With her being in prison, it was like I was missing a part of myself. Educating people is therapeutic for me. I’m here to inform people and fight for better laws to support kids like me. I’ll never get that time back, it’s shaped me but I feel great now that my mom is free and we can work together to change the world for the better,” Harris said.