As a reproductive justice organization, the Prison Birth Project works within a framework of human rights and intersectionality. We understand that all identities and oppressions exist in complex ways for each of us, and that the criminal justice system is organized around these oppressions. We hold true that our experiences and identities are what make us human, and each of us deserves dignity, respect, and rights because we are human. Reproductive justice is experienced when our full selves, our families, and our communities have the support that we need to parent, or not parent with dignity and freedom from violence. Few of us experience this, and the reproductive injustices that many people face, particularly women of color, are amplified by interactions with the criminal justice system.
The mission of our work is focused on the intersection of incarceration and parenthood within a women’s jail. While we acknowledge that many forms of oppression exist inside the walls of prisons and jails, our work requires a particular focus on dismantling racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and classism. Being dedicated to racial and gender justice means that we strive to make our organization an accessible and inclusive space for people of all racial and gender identities. It means we work to address and unlearn the ways we engage in oppressive behaviors and that we strive to bring an anti-racist and gender justice framework to all of our work.
We know that race and racism play a role in everyday life for each and every one of us. Racism is built into the prison system. Racism is built into the United States—in every moment of our history. Our racial justice mission mandates that we not only make sure that our programmatic work is serving people of color, but that our programs, our internal structure, and all of our functions actively work to dismantle racism. When we make mistakes, we are committed to being held accountable to our anti-racist mission. As a reproductive justice organization, we are committed to people of color holding leadership. Our white staff, board, and volunteers are committed to acknowledging their privilege and using it to dismantle racism by moving forward when solidarity is necessary and moving back when it is time to listen.
We are committed to collectively working against all forms of racism through trainings and workshops with skilled facilitators, and feedback from our Anti-Racism Advisory Committee, whose task it is to hold us accountable on all levels to our mission of racial justice.
In our mission, we say that we work with women and people of trans experience. We use the word woman because we know that incarceration is set up to dehumanize—stripping women of our identity and denying our experiences of womanhood. Our members inside have expressed how validating it is to have a space where their womanhood is seen and named. We also know that not everyone who has given birth, and is or has been incarcerated in a women’s facility, identifies as a woman or as a mother. We acknowledge that the use of language like woman and mother can exclude people who we intend to work with, so we use the phrase people of trans experience to include parents inside women’s jails who may identify as transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming. However, when we say women, we include trans women, and we will not leave transgender women out of conversations about incarceration and parenthood. Trans women are rarely sent to women’s facilities, and none of our program members have come out to us as trans women. We are a small organization with limited resources, so for now, our work inside is based at one women’s jail. We are also an organization with a big vision, and we work in solidarity with everyone at the intersection of incarceration, reproductive justice, and parenthood.