CHICAGO — Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration is currently collecting toy donations online for children of mothers in jail.
“Incarceration is a financial strain on families,” said Holly Krig, director of organizing for Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration. Her group focuses on offering mutual support to mothers who have been harmed by incarceration and are survivors of violence.
“We coordinated campaigns around people who have been criminalized in some way by gender-based violence,” she said. “So we’ve focused on getting people out of jail in cases where primarily mothers have been criminalized for an act of survival or actions taken in self-defense.”
To donate to this year’s drive visit the 5th Annual Holiday Solidarity Toy Drive wishlist on Amazon here.
“We need to generate about 1,500 donations for seven facilities,” Krig said. “So Amazon is really the only way that we can make that happen logistically. The best way that folks can participate if they’re able to so is to donate directly from the wish list.”
As of Wednesday, the drive reached 70 percent of its 2018 goal. It’s expected to run through the next few weeks ahead of the Christmas holiday.
“Children of incarcerated people are being taken care of by a grandparent, an aunt or a distant relative or a family friend. And they’re just not always financially prepared to take care of another child,” Krig said. “And very little support is provided by the state, even if that child enters the home through the foster care system.”
Krig says over the last 40 years there’s been a significant increase in the number of women who are incarcerated. And about 60 percent of women in state prisons have a child under the age of 18, according to data from the The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit aimed at reducing the use of incarceration.
“Criminalization is not a process by which anyone’s made safer. It not only makes people far more vulnerable to harm who are captured within systems of incarceration,” Krig said. “But also their children, who are taken away from them and put into unstable situations.”
The toy drive is one way Moms United offers mutual support to families with mothers currently incarcerated. The group first co-organized a toy drive in 2014 with Chicago Legal Advocacy to Incarcerated Mothers and Nehemiah Trinity Rising.
That initial drive was aimed at collecting 400 gifts for mothers at Logan Correctional Center, which is located in Lincoln, Illinois and had a population of 1,696 women as of June 30.
“It’s important to us to be able to do the toy drive in such a way that the gifts are sent to the moms to choose from and then they can then give them directly to their kids, rather than to be given to them by a third party or another organization,” Krig said. “So it’s something that moms can do for their children through the toy drive.”
That initial toy drive was able to collect 1,200 donations, so gifts were also given to children of women incarcerated at facilities in Decatur, Fox Valley and Cook County as well as those seeking treatment for addiction at facilities like the Women’s Treatment Center and the Haymarket Center.
Since then the toy drive has raised about 1,500 in gifts each year.
“The mutual support campaigns are about helping people inside jails and prisons, like access to phones and money to buy basic hygiene products while they’re there,” Krig said. “But also their loved ones who are struggling to care for their children.”
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