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Mothers Fight for Reform

Moms are mobilizing across the country to fight for changes in the juvenile-justice system.  (justicenotjails.org)
Moms are mobilizing across the country to fight for changes in the juvenile-justice system. (justicenotjails.org)
May 9, 2016

BALTIMORE – More than 50,000 moms across the country spent Mother's Day without their child because he or she is locked up in jail or prison.

A new report by the Institute for Policy Studies says many mothers have taken the pain of separation and turned it into activism.

Former Baltimore resident Grace Bauer Lubow is executive director of Justice for Families. Her son is an inmate at Eastern Correctional Institute Annex in Westover.

She says he went to jail the first time at age 13 after getting into trouble repeatedly after his grandmother died. He eventually was sentenced to 17 years for robbing a pizza restaurant with a BB gun.

Bauer Lubow says the state should have focused on alternatives other than just locking him up.

"We could have done grief counseling at that point, I think, for $30 a session, but at that time it cost over $100,000 a year to lock my son up in a juvenile facility that only caused more problems,” she states. “It certainly will have lifelong consequences in our lives.”

The report says over the past several decades, the reduction in social support systems coupled with an increasingly punitive justice system has hit working families hard, especially low-income families of color.

Bauer Lubow says inmates and their families are treated as if they don't matter by the prison system, and that makes young people who are locked up feel hopeless. She says she's not allowed to send her son a card, or hug him when she visits.

"And I haven't seen my son in four months,” she stresses. “Sometimes it's longer than that. So it's really hard not to reach out and hug him when you see him and just be grateful that he's there, and he's in one piece. "

She says when a juvenile is first locked up, parents don't know how to navigate the system so they can talk to or visit with their child, and she says it's very expensive for an inmate to call home.

"For my son to call me from Maryland is $10,” she points out. “That's $10 for a 30-minute call. Even when I was in Baltimore, when I was 20 minutes down the road from him, it was still a $10 call, and some are much higher."

From 1980 to 2000, state prison budgets grew 200 percent, while education budgets grew 30 percent.

Every year, 1.7 million cases are referred to juvenile court.

Bauer Lubow says family-driven organizations are mobilizing across the country to hold officials accountable to the rehabilitative mission, and she says a mother can have a loud voice when it comes to her child.


Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD