Many moms stuck in jail are too poor to afford bail. These activists decided to fix that.

Theresa was arrested in April, and without the $5,000 she needed to post bail, she couldn't leave the holding facility in Estrella, Arizona, until after her trial.

Theresa (whose last name is not being published to protect her privacy ahead of her trial) was nine months' pregnant with her third child when she was arrested. Instead of being surrounded by family and friends, she gave birth in jail, and her child was immediately taken by the department of child safety.

Even though Theresa hadn't been convicted of a crime, she was held in jail until May, when her friend came to take her home before Mother's Day. She was speechless.


Photo courtesy Analise Ortiz, ACLU of Arizona, used with permission.

Theresa's friend came up with her bail money with the help of dozens of community groups nationwide that are working to bail women out of jail in time for Mother's Day.

The initiative, in collaboration with Black Mama's Bail Out and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), also aims to raise awareness about America's growing mass incarceration problem — and how to fix it.

Theresa is one of the 1,400 women who give birth while incarcerated annually in the United States. These women have to work through bureaucratic processes to get their babies back.

"She's currently taking the steps she needs to take to get her baby back, but it's definitely going to be a fight," says Nicole Hale, community organizer for Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), one of the grassroots nonprofits working with the cross-country initiative. LUCHA has raised nearly $10,000 to pay the bail of mothers who are in jail.

More than 200,000 women in the U.S. are currently in jail or prison — one of the highest rates in the world — and 80% of those women are mothers.

And while black and Hispanic people make up 32% of the U.S. population, they represent 56% of those who are incarcerated.

Those numbers don't lie: The system disproportionally affects people of color and America's poor.

The Estrella Jail in Maricopa County, Arizona. Photo by Camaron Stevenson.

"Even spending a few days in jail has a profound impact on people's lives," says Will Gaona, policy director for the ACLU of Arizona. "Especially for those with low incomes, they're likely to lose their jobs, they may lose their housing, they're in danger of losing custody of their children."

The current cash bail system is part of the problem, Gaona says. It's inefficient and expensive and has a huge, negative effect on low-income individuals.

"We've accepted the idea that the government can hold people in jail — who are legally presumed to be innocent — only because they're poor," he says.

What's more, a study by the New York City Criminal Justice Agency found that conviction rates skyrocketed from 50% to 92% for individuals who are jailed pretrial.

"When you're in jail, you're stuck," Hale says, "for a lot of people who can't afford to pay bail, they don't really have another option other than to take a plea agreement."

Hale says the Mother's Day bailout is an opportunity to shed light on the problems with the cash bail system and inspire people to do what they can to fight it.

She says if you want to get involved, you can donate to the bail fund, refer mothers in need of bail by texting "CHANGE" to 94502, and share information about the event with friends and family.

"Every donation goes a long way," Hale says. "Once [Theresa's] case is finished, we'll get that $5,000 back, which turns into a larger, permanent bail fund that can benefit the whole community."

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Davina Agudelo was born in Miami, Florida, but she grew up in Medellín, Colombia.

"I am so grateful for my upbringing in Colombia, surrounded by mountains and mango trees, and for my Colombian family," Agudelo says. "Colombia is the place where I learned what's truly essential in life." It's also where she found her passion for the arts.

While she was growing up, Colombia was going through a violent drug war, and Agudelo turned to literature, theater, singing, and creative writing as a refuge. "Journaling became a sacred practice, where I could leave on the page my dreams & longings as well as my joy and sadness," she says. "During those years, poetry came to me naturally. My grandfather was a poet and though I never met him, maybe there is a little bit of his love for poetry within me."

In 1998, when she left her home and everyone she loved and moved to California, the arts continued to be her solace and comfort. She got her bachelor's degree in theater arts before getting certified in journalism at UCLA. It was there she realized the need to create a media platform that highlighted the positive contributions of LatinX in the US.

"I know the power that storytelling and writing our own stories have and how creative writing can aid us in our own transformation."

In 2012, she started Alegría Magazine and it was a great success. Later, she refurbished a van into a mobile bookstore to celebrate Latin American and LatinX indie authors and poets, while also encouraging children's reading and writing in low-income communities across Southern California.

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via Number 10 / Flickr

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved a measure last month that could pave the way for the Catholic Church to deny President Joe Biden communion. The conservative bishops hope to prevent Biden from participating in the sacred ritual because of his support for abortion rights.

Biden is a devout Catholic who considered becoming a priest in his youth. He rarely misses mass, holds a rosary while making critical decisions, and often quotes scriptures. When asked about the bishops' decision Biden said it is "a private matter and I don't think that's going to happen."

The bishops hope the new guidance would push "Catholics who are cultural, political, or parochial leaders to witness the faith."

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