'Orange Is The New Black' Spent Mother's Day In Prison, But Was Their Season 3 Celebration True To Life?
Orange is the New Black is back and better than ever, dropping its third season on Netflix earlier than expected on Thursday night. It started out on a tender note as the Orange is the New Black Season 3 premiere focused on Mother's Day. It was a celebration that really warmed my heart. All the mommas of Litchfield got to have a picnic on the prison grounds with their kids there to visit them. It was sweet, cute, and offered the mothers, as well as the kids, a rare sense of normalcy and fun for the day — before heading back to reality. But, it got me wondering whether real prisons celebrate Mother's Day like OITNB did.
According to Families Against Mandatory Minimums, more than 56 percent of women in prison say they are mothers, and the majority of them are serving time for non-violent crimes. Last year, Mother Jones reported that three percent of children in the United States have a parent that is currently incarcerated. And, according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, only nine percent of women in jail will ever receive a visit from their children who are under 18, due to lack of transportation or resources, among other factors. That's really tough.
Fortunately, there are some real-life programs that were created to help kids see their mothers on Mother's Day — and beyond.
1. Aid To Inmate Mothers
In Alabama, this organization has programs to help bring children to see their mothers on a monthly basis, providing transportation throughout the city. They also provide toys and games, as well as photos of the visit as a keepsake for the mothers and the children. AIM provides this for kids up to 19-years-old, (but those younger than eight need an adult to go with them).
2. Kids' Day
The Montana Women’s Prison in Billings holds a "Kids' Day" one Saturday each month to let mothers bond with their children, organized by the Family Tree Center. It can be hard to make the trip — some families simply can't afford the transport — but they try to make an effort.
The Billings Gazette reported last year that there is research showing that children who have parents in prison are more likely themselves to spend time in prison, but the Women's Prison is hoping that creating closer bonds between parents and children will combat that.
“I don’t know what I’d do without this program,” incarcerated woman Lisa Huey told the Gazette in 2012. “I’d be an absent parent without it.”
3. Get On The Bus
In California, this organization provides transport to children so they can visit their moms on Mother's Day. They also do the same for kids with dads in prison on Father's Day. Sister Suzanne Jabro, C.S.J., a Los Angeles nun, co-founded the program in 2000 after working with prisoners and realizing this was a real problem.
"Nobody visits women in prison," Jabro told Good Housekeeping. "Their men have left and the children live with relatives who can't drive, can't afford the gas, or can't manage a carful of kids."
Unfortunately, these programs aren't available in all states and for all prisons, but maybe one day they will be. And, for now, at least Orange is the New Black Season 3 is helping raise awareness for what it's like to be a mother in prison, and the importance of letting their children visit.
Image: JoJo Whilden/Netflix