New year, new outreach to mothers with sons involved in the justice system

As we approach 2018, I am excited to announce my new venture, the “Heart-to-Heart Speaking Tour” for churches in the Las Vegas area titled, “Mass Incarceration and its Effects on Families and Communities.”

The goal is to encourage churches to advocate for criminal justice reform and/or to consider a ministry to support/mentor those in jail or prison, on parole or probation, or families with a loved one involved in the justice system.

As the mother of a now-deceased son who spent much of his adult life in New York State prisons and the grandmother of three grandsons currently in custody, I know the huge impact incarceration can have on families.

For too many years, I felt helpless and hopeless about my son’s incarceration.

Other mothers should not have to face these feelings alone; hence, my mission to support, educate, and empower mothers.

To promote equal justice in America, those most affected by failed criminal justice policies should have a voice in any reforms. This should include the mothers of inmates.

Through One Mother’s Voice: In the Name of Justice, I will continue my outreach to the thousands of mothers with sons in prison.

To that end, we are developing a revised format for 2018 that will include interviews with mothers who can give voice and witness to the collateral damage of incarceration for families.

If you would like to share your story, contact










Criminal and social justice movements: alive and well

This is an updated commentary, originally a segment of “One Mother’s Voice” podcast (re-named “One Mother’s Voice: In the Name of Justice”) for April 3, 2017

 Despite having a president in the White House, who has rolled back efforts to address climate change, to de-regulate certain industries, and to stop the construction of an oil pipeline through Nebraska, the outlook for criminal and social justice reform remains positive.

In fact, legislators, chiefs of police, formerly incarcerated persons, and prisoner advocacy organizations continue to move forward in efforts to shine a light on the injustices, and often horrific acts, against those in prison; to eliminate mass incarceration; to dismantle laws that foster the disenfranchisement of parolees; and to assist families affected by incarceration, especially children.

Some examples:

  • In Missouri, the Justice Reinvestment Taskforce, established by Gov. Eric Greitens, met to discuss criminal justice reform and explore strategies to address the state’s incarceration growth. The Taskforce is expected to publish the report by the end of 2017.
  • San Diego Superior Judge Lisa Rodriguez said (a) pretrial detention working group heard from over 40 representatives from all over the justice spectrum, including the bail industry, and the message was unanimous that California’s bail system… needs drastic reform.
  • A major reduction has taken place in the number of teenagers committed to juvenile facilities…(a)t a time of increasing calls to cut the number of incarcerated adults by 50 percent over 10 years, the juvenile justice system has already attained this goal.

I urge my primary audience– mothers with sons in prison– to join the movement. Take an active role in monitoring the treatment of your son, know what community resources are available to you, and most important, do not remain silent or ashamed.

Political action is the best antidote to feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, or powerless.


We need a grassroots movement of families of inmates

 The following commentary is from “One Mother’s Voice: In the Name of Justice” podcast for October 9, 2017

There was a strong pre-Trump push for criminal justice reform from many segments of the justice system, including law enforcement, prison administrators and judges.

Calls for eliminating plea bargaining, ending solitary confinement, improving prison conditions, banning for-profit, private prisons, and other reforms was growing.

Ironically, I have not seen the burgeoning of a grassroots movement from groups or communities of color most affected by mass incarceration

Our voices are still silent.

These same communities under a Trump presidency and a Republican-dominated Congress face other challenges:

  • Congressional failure to reauthorize the Child Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) for low-income families (by September 30), leaving coverage for thousands of children in doubt;
  • A memorandum from Attorney General Jeff Sessions for federal prosecutors to take a tougher stance on sentencing in federal cases;
  • A president who does not have an agenda for criminal justice reform, unlike under the Obama administration;

These issues mostly impact low-income families and communities of color; consequently, it seems as if the spotlight on criminal justice reform has dimmed.

I hope my observations are wrong.

Of course, advocacy groups such as The Sentencing Project, The Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, the Center for Prison Reform, and Human Rights Watch continue to work on behalf of those incarcerated and their families; nonetheless, their efforts are made easier when public opinion and public interests line up with their missions.

With national politics so chaotic, we cannot depend on political leaders to care about our loved ones; every mother, father, sibling, child or spouse of an inmate should join the cause to reduce the harmful, disruptive consequences of incarceration on families and communities.

We need a movement of families both informed about criminal justice policies and practices and fed up with the status quo in America’s jails and prisons.

Until this happens, significant reforms in our justice system will be a long time coming.