The Prison Birth Project (PBP) is a reproductive justice organization providing support, education, advocacy, and activism training to women at the intersection of the criminal justice system and motherhood. As their website points out, in prison, 4-7% of women are pregnant, the same percentage as in the wider population; 85% are mothers, and 25% were pregnant upon arrest or gave birth in the previous year.
On Friday November 26th, I was among over a hundred people who gathered at the First Churches in Northampton for the PBP’s Annual Fall Fundraiser Celebration. Staff and members of the organization gave moving testimonies while the audience enjoyed a gourmet meal sourced from donations from local farms. Marcella Jayne, a facilitator for PBP’s Mothers Among Us program (a support group created for incarcerated mothers to explore the effects of oppression in their lives) spoke out about her own experiences with the penal system. She recalled shackles restricting the blood flow to her ankles, swollen from pregnancy, and the mistreatment and humiliation she faced inside a locked facility.
A member shared her bumpy struggle to end the cycle of addiction in her family, and provide her kids with a better life. Full of emotion, she recalled the strength she drew from the Prison Birth Project doula (birth helper), who assisted her as she gave birth while incarcerated. It was a heart wrenching account, but also spoke to hope, sisterhood, and the transformative healing.
Gratitude poured from all over the room. Prison Birth Project Co-Founder Lisa Andrews honored two members and a volunteer doula, providing them with Resiliency Awards. Anna Hendricks the Co-Director of Development, discussed the miracles PBP creates, running 3 programs on the shoestring budget of only 60,000 a year. She pointed out that staff hours are exceeded by volunteer hours.
For more information on the Prison Birth Project, or to get involved go to: www.theprisonbirthproject.org