Mothers of Bedford (Documentary, 2011). This film examines the struggles and joys five women face as prisoners and mothers. It shows the normal frustrations of parenting as well as the surreal experiences of a child’s first birthday party inside prison, the cell that the child lives in with her mother, and the biggest celebration of the year, Mother’s Day, in prison.
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights makes film, wins award (Oakland Tribune, April 19, 2011) -This 20-minute film highlights the injustices and solutions to California’s youth prison problem and has won a 2010 Prevention for a Safer Society award.
From Place to Place (Feature Film, 2011) – The feature documentary From Place to Place tells the story of the invisible children who grow up in America’s foster care system. The film follows the lives of three former foster youth – Raif, Mandy, and Micah – for over two years as they struggle to make it on their own, find their voice and impact the system. Raif hits the streets in search of love and happiness, Mandy passes the GED and goes to college, and Micah is sentenced to three years in jail. The film takes an unexpected turn when Mandy and Raif are invited to Washington DC to present their stories to The Senate Caucus on Foster Youth. The power of their voice sets in motion a chain of events that culminates with The Senate Caucus on Foster Youth announcing a Call to Action for comprehensive reform to America’s foster care system.
RESOURCES FOR SERVICE PROVIDERS
NEW – Friends Outside presence on Facebook.
The Messages Project is focused on children left behind when a parent is incarcerated in Virginia. Three times a year, the Message Project creates videotapes from incarcerated parents to their children and families, often with a book or poems. The mission is to maintain, or in many cases re-build, the connection between imprisoned parents and the children that are left behind.
First Focus Fact Sheet – Children of Incarcerated Parents (by Yali Lincroft, May 2, 2011) – The United States leads the world in rates of incarceration, with one in every American adults residing in jail or prison. Sixty-three percent of federal prisoners and fifty-five percent of state prisoners are parents of children under age 18. This fact sheet examines the effect that having an incarcerated parent has on a child and provides recommendations for reforms.
NEW – Re-entry Mythbusters – (Federal Re-entry Resource Center, May 2, 2011) – These one pagers are designed to clarify existing federal policies that affect formerly incarcerated individuals and their families. Topics covered include public housing, access to federal benefits, parental rights, employer incentives, child support, etc.
See “Re entry Myth Buster: Child welfare agencies are required to terminate parental rights if a parent is incarcerated.”
Criminal Alien Statistics – Information on Incarcerations, Arrest, and Costs (GAO, March 2011)
Welfare Reform at Age 15: A Vanishing Safety Net for Women and Children (Legal Momentum, April 2011) – In 1996, the federal government “ended welfare as we know it,” replacing Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program. A new report argues that over the last fifteen years, TANF has utterly failed to offer its recipients – mostly children and single mothers – a path out of poverty.
Who Are America’s Poor Children? The Official Story (National Center for Children in Poverty, March 2011, 6 pages). Over 15 million American children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, which is $22,050 a year for a family of four. The number of children living in poverty increased by 33 percent between 2000 and 2009. This fact sheet describes some of the characteristics of American children who are considered poor by the official standard.
California Legislation – AB 568 (Skinner) – Stop shackling of pregnant prisons. This bill will put an end to the shackling of pregnant people during transport to and from juvenile and adult correctional facilities. The bill requires the Corrections Standards Authority to develop standards for state and county facilities that limit the use of shackles on pregnant women during transport.
California Legislation – AB 828 (Swanson) – Nutritional Assistance for Families Act. This bill would lift the lifetime ban on CalFresh assistance for people with prior low-level drug convictions.
Hope for prisoners sentenced as juveniles to life without parole (San Francisco Bay View, May 6, 2011) – What could be more terrifying than to be a child locked up for life in an adult prison?“True prison reform starts with the enlightenment of the inmate about who that inmate is in reality and not what he or she has become because of circumstances,” says the Honorable Minister Farrakhan. In California there is a bill, Senate Bill 9, formerly known as Senate Bill 399, going through the process to become law, introduced by Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco. Under SB 9, the Fair Sentencing for Youth Act, juvenile offenders would be allowed to ask a court to review their cases after they have served 10 years in prison and could potentially get their sentence reduced to 25 years to life.
NEWS & OPINIONS
Tanya McDowell Pleads Not Guilty to ‘Stealing’ Son’s Education (Colorlines, April 27, 2011). A homeless mom faces 20 years in jail for using a friend’s address to send her 5-year-old to school.
Shackled mom wins case – Damages coming for Metro, sheriff (The Tennessean, April 28, 2011)
A federal judge has ruled in favor of a Nashville mother who triggered a national outcry after she was shackled during labor and after giving birth while in custody of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office.
U.S District Court Judge William Haynes Jr. will set a hearing for damages against Metro government and the sheriff’s office in the Juana Villegas case, which grew out of a July 3, 2008, traffic stop in Berry Hill.
Nine months pregnant, Villegas was arrested and charged with careless driving and driving without vehicle insurance. She didn’t have a driver’s license.
A check of Villegas’ immigration status found she had a previous deportation order to her native Mexico. Her water broke on July 5 and she delivered the baby at 1 a.m. on July 6.
In his decision Wednesday, Haynes wrote that Villegas was “neither a risk of flight nor a danger to anyone,” citing medical testimony. The judge concluded that shackling Villegas during the final stages of her labor and her post-partum recovery violated her civil rights.
Villegas’ lawyer, Elliott Ozment, said the judge’s decision was courageous, declaring that no pregnant woman should be subjected to such treatment.
She was separated from her newborn son for two days and was not allowed to have a breast pump or cream for lactating mothers in her cell.
Villegas wasn’t available to comment Wednesday but Ozment said she was happy and “it hasn’t really sunk in for her yet.”
“She is a very humble woman and she (sued) so this does not happen to another woman in the United States, regardless of their race and ethnic heritage,” Ozment added.
Sherrard & Roe attorneys also represented Villegas in the federal case.
The sheriff’s office declined to comment. In combating the lawsuit, it cited expert testimony on the danger of “illegal immigrants fleeing and engaging in illegal activities” to justify shackling the expectant mother to the bed.
But Haynes said there is “no empirical support of those assertions that illegal aliens as a group commit crime that endangers the public safety.”
Under a program named 287(g) after a section of federal immigration law, Davidson County deputies run all foreign-born inmates through an immigration database and hold them for possible deportation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Villegas was discovered to be in the U.S. illegally through the 287(g) program.
Human rights supporters and immigration advocates said the case signified an undercurrent of bias against immigrants. Villegas’ arrest may have been racial profiling by police, they said.
Reports that she had been shackled to the bed sparked criticism that led the sheriff’s office to change its policy on restraining pregnant women. Now, officials say, pregnant women are shackled only during transport if there is a credible threat that they may try to escape.
Medical staff had told deputies to unshackle Villegas, according to court records. Under the ICE detainer, she would have been released from custody while the case was being considered.
Villegas, the mother of four U.S.-born children, has lived in this country for 17 years, returning quickly after a 1996 deportation to Mexico.
Now deportation looms again after the U.S. 6th District Court of Appeals denied a request that would have allowed her to stay.
Ozment is pushing immigration officials not to deport Villegas.
In Calif. Town, Prison May Fix One Employment Problem, But Create Another
– (PBS, May 5, 2011). “The small California farm town of Mendota is struggling to diversify its economy, which revolves around seasonal agricultural work that creates times of very high unemployment. University of California, Berkeley student Alissa Figueroa reports on one solution that could also create a big problem for farms and their workers.”
JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, another in our occasional reports from journalism students around the country. It comes from Alissa Figueroa at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Journalism. Her story is about a California town wrestling with solutions to high unemployment.
ALISSA FIGUEROA, University of California, Berkeley: Mendota is a dusty, ragged city of 10,000 people in California’s Central Valley. But it’s surrounded by some of America’s richest farmland.
Almost everyone here works in agriculture and most are Latino immigrants. Joe Del Bosque runs a 2,400-acre cantaloupe farm near Mendota. Even with unemployment in California at 12 percent, he says that only Latino immigrants come to him looking for work in the fields.
JOSEPH DEL BOSQUE, farmer: Any fresh fruit and vegetable has to be picked by hand. We have immigrants that are willing to do it. And we should be thankful that we do. In this valley, there’s a huge demand for labor. We don’t have enough people here in the valley to harvest those crops by hand. And people don’t come from the cities on the coast inland to pick our crops.
ALISSA FIGUEROA: Del Bosque says he only hires workers who can provide Social Security numbers. But more than half the farm labor in California’s multibillion-dollar agriculture industry is performed by illegal immigrants. So there’s a good chance that many of his workers are undocumented.
They’re willing to do this labor, which is low-paying and seasonal. Most people in Mendota, regardless of their immigration status, are jobless for part of the year. This is largely because agriculture is so unstable. Unemployment in the city reached 40 percent last year.
Mendota’s leaders, headed by Mayor Robert Silva, have spent years trying to diversify the local economy.
ROBERT SILVA, mayor of Mendota, Calif.: 93 percent of the jobs here in Mendota are farm-related. So, we wanted to get away from that. And that’s why we have managed to do a lot of different things the last couple of years.
ALISSA FIGUEROA: The city council went after a multimillion-dollar federal prison.
ROBERT SILVA: This mayor out of Delano, they had a prison there, and he was telling me, oh, Robert, there’s a lot of good things that come out of the prison.
ALISSA FIGUEROA: Like jobs. The new prison is scheduled to open later this year. Guards there will earn twice the average salary in Mendota. But few of them will be from town. Hardly anyone here qualifies for the federal prison jobs. They require a college degree and good credit.
JOSEPH RIOFRIO, Mendota City Council: I would say, when that place is built, if we have five people from this community working there, that’s going to be like, wow.
ALISSA FIGUEROA: But last fall, another economic opportunity came up.
NARRATOR: CCA takes great pride in providing a safe, secure and positive environment, both…
ALISSA FIGUEROA: Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, is the biggest private prison company in the country. CCA approached the city about building another prison in Mendota. They already own this land within the city’s limits. And they have promised to hire locals.
CCA’s contract with the city says that 80 percent of the new prison staff will come from the surrounding community. It seemed like a golden opportunity, except for one thing.
JOSEPH RIOFRIO: They’re negotiating with I think the feds, building a facility there, what is going to be an immigration type of prison.
ALISSA FIGUEROA: A detention center for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, the federal agency that arrests and deports illegal immigrants.
JOSEPH RIOFRIO: That’s not going to fly good in this community, because that was the number-one thing that people would ask me. (SPEAKING SPANISH) Is ICE going to be here? Is La Migra going to be here?
No, no, no, no, no.
I don’t know. And, if that happens, if they start with that here in this town, which 40 percent, at times, that there are so many undocumented people here, it’s not going to be a popular thing.
WOMAN (through translator): People will leave.
MAN (through translator): People will leave.
WOMAN (through translator): They will have to leave.
MAN (through translator): They will have to leave.
WOMAN (through translator): People are scared.
MAN (through translator): People are scared.
ALISSA FIGUEROA: They’re scared because ICE launched a series of raids in this county four years ago and arrested about 150 people.
The raid caused an uproar. Mendota’s City Council condemned it, and there hasn’t been another one in the city since. The illegal immigrants who avoided arrest went back to work in the fields.
MAN (through translator): The people who have their papers don’t go into this work. It’s the undocumented people who are willing to do it. So if they have that they will lose everybody. All the vans that go to work at 5:00 a.m., if they check them they will take everyone. And if there’s fruit to be picked there it will stay.
ALISSA FIGUEROA: Not all Californians agree. Rick Oltman has spent the last two decades on the front lines of the battle against illegal immigration.
RICK OLTMAN, minuteman: If a reasonable wage is paid, you will have Americans doing these jobs. It isn’t true that illegal aliens take jobs that Americans won’t do. There are no jobs that people won’t do. There’s only wages that people won’t accept.
ALISSA FIGUEROA: ICE has not formally approved the detention center yet. The agency declined to comment on plans for the site. But if built the center in Mendota would help house the growing number of immigrants awaiting deportation hearings, prisoners who are now held in county jails, like this one in Richmond, Calif.
RICK OLTMAN: It probably would lead to more enforcement, because there will be people asking, well we have this facility that we have paid for, and half the beds aren’t filled. How come you’re not enforcing the law more?
ALISSA FIGUEROA: Mendota’s leaders are focused on the 300 jobs they say the detention center would bring, not the potential for more ICE raids.
Even Councilman Joseph Riofrio supports the new facility.
JOSEPH RIOFRIO: You know, if we don’t, someone else will. Other communities line up for them. But people need to work here.
ALISSA FIGUEROA: The Mendota City Council traveled to Washington, D.C., in March to lobby the Department of Homeland Security for the ICE detention center. CCA sent executives as well. Because the recession put many federal and state prison projects on hold, immigration detention is now one of the company’s biggest growth areas.
Mayor Robert Silva doesn’t see any losers in the deal. He says that even the town’s undocumented workers won’t have to fear ICE if the detention center is built.
ROBERT SILVA: The feds look the other way, because nobody is going to be doing this labor work, OK, nobody else. That’s why a lot of undocumented workers come to California. And it’s been going on since the ’40s. It’s not going to stop. So I don’t believe that the United States is really going to go down and crush this area because it has — just because the facility is there. I don’t believe it.
ALISSA FIGUEROA: Meanwhile, Mendota’s illegal immigrants continue to live and work, hidden in plain sight.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Yesterday a hiring freeze at the federal prison was lifted and job applications are now being accepted. No contract has been signed yet for the detention facility.
Compiled by Yali Lincroft, MBA, Policy & Program Consultant. DISCLAIMER: The information in this newsletter does not represent my opinion, nor do I necessarily endorse these resources. This information is intended to provide general discussion on the topic and should not be used as a substitute for professional advice which takes into consideration specific circumstances of the situation. Those seeking case consultation should seek the services of a competent professional. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you like to be removed from this listserv.