Dear beloved community,
We send you this letter today with heavy hearts. After a decade of fighting for reproductive justice and against mass incarceration, the Prison Birth Project has decided to close our doors.
In the past 10 years, we have done work of which we are immensely proud. We supported over 300 incarcerated people during pregnancy and postpartum and built leadership with over 225 incarcerated parents. Our doulas have attended over 60 births. We helped to pass the landmark Massachusetts legislation ending shackling of pregnant and laboring incarcerated people and monitored successful implementation of new standards.
In the past year, the expertise of our leaders has been recognized more and more, with Kenzie Johnson and Marianne Bullock joining the National Advisory Board to End Shackling and presenting to formerly incarcerated people working to change policy on a federal level, Marisa Pizii featured on a keynote panel at the national SisterSong conference, and Lisa Andrews’ efforts resulting in a loyal community of individual and foundation donors that have contributed hundreds of thousands to PBP. We have built immense support and interest in this important work.
However, as PBP has struggled against large systems of power, we have found we do not have the kind of support we need to become the sustainable organization we envision. Operating within systems of racism, capitalism, and mass incarceration, we have felt the pressure to make compromises we don’t want to make. Working inside a jail, PBP constantly walked the line between maintaining access and programs while expressing our values against incarceration. We do not want our successes to be at the expense of the health and wellbeing of our staff and volunteers. We know this is a larger problem within the nonprofit industrial complex, and in our case it has led to the difficult decision to close.
We are committed to (a) winding down PBP’s programs and operations with integrity, (b) celebrating all that we have accomplished over the last 10 years, and (c) documenting key lessons and practices so that others can benefit from what we’ve done.
Your support has made it possible for this work to have an impact that will endure past the lifetime of any one organization. PBP offered a service and support where there was none. For years women inside sat in circles, sharing, learning, growing, organizing together. Giving birth to new ideas, leadership, experiences, and their babies. The loss of services and support will be profound to our community — but we trust in the power of our collective energy, and know that the last 10 years have contributed to the momentum of a movement that continues. PBP members are now leading support groups in Franklin County, getting certified to be doulas for people on medication-assisted drug treatment, and becoming recovery coaches and substance use counselors. As one of our members said, “We need support while we are here, so when we get out we can be leaders.”
We invite you to PBP’s final celebration on Feb 2nd at 6pm. RSVP now. This will be a meaningful opportunity to celebrate our successes, learn more about how we came to this decision. Come hear about the next contributions PBP members will make to this movement.
We also invite you to consider contributing to these trusted organizations who continue the fight:
National and state reproductive justice orgs led by people impacted by incarceration and people of color:
- Justice Now
- TEWA Women United
- Black and Pink
- Families for Justice as Healing
- EMIT (Ending Mass Incarceration Together)
Organizations that directly support people inside:
Foundations that are led by people impacted by incarceration and POC:
Thank you for being part of our community.
The Prison Birth Project