May 17, 2013
A first time ever Mother’s Day Art event was staged in the foyer reception area of San Francisco’s County Jail #2 last Friday, a women-only jail facility located on 7th Street.
The programmed event included an exhibition of restorative art created by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated artists; a poetry recital; theatrical performances; a gift exchange between inmates and their children; and the announcement by Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi about the department’s new ‘doula’ program for pregnant inmates, a program Mirkarimi initiated in collaboration with the department’s jail house services, the San Francisco Department of Public Health, UC San Francisco, and the Justice Earth Project, to improve family-based services for inmates, formerly incarcerated men and women, and their families.
“We are here today to celebrate Mother’s Day and to celebrate the children and families of Mother’s Day,” Mirkarimi said. “We are also here to proclaim our loving care and respect during the transformative experience of pregnancy, birth and parenthood.”
“It is the aim of our administration to make sure that we improve upon the policies that make the experience for women, for mothers, for their children and families, to be the most positive and constructive and effective experience that anyone here would expect,” Mirkarimi added.
Mirkarimi said discussions about creating a more humane, progressive and pragmatic departmental policy around pregnancy, motherhood and incarceration, first began with his predecessor, Sheriff Michael Hennessey. Their shared vision includes lowering the secondary impacts to children and families of incarcerated parents, reducing recidivism rates, and minimizing the economic and social costs to society.
“The doula project inside the jails is to ensure that the pre and post-partum care of a child and mother is getting the same kind of attention as I would expect for anyone,” Mirkarimi said, adding that the doula project includes a lactation policy to facilitate essential parent-child bonding and to ensure a newborn receives all of the nutrients needed for healthy development.
The event’s art show featured both performing and display art. The latter included pieces made by inmates out of paper and fabric. The performers included both former inmates and children of inmates.
The event featured a performance by “Project What!?“, a community works program for youth who have a parent in custody.
There was also a dramatic presentation by Rising Voices, a theatrical troupe comprised of formerly incarcerated young women.
At the same time as the lobby event, a Mother’s Day gift exchange occurred in the jail’s visiting room during which inmates exchanged homemade gifts, including works of art, with their children.
It was a poignant and moving event that elicited both joyful smiles and tears among the performers and the audience.
Luke Thomas contributed to this article.
Editor’s Note: More photos from the event available here.