Pass It On: Give the Gift of Ms. to Women in Prisons and Domestic Violence Shelters

Out of sight may mean out of mind—and heart. For women in prison, this is the tragedy. For the rest of us, this invisibility keeps us from realizing how much women in prison may resemble and could be you and me.

Mariana is an immigrant woman who was separated from her children. Thanks to advocates from the Vera Institute, her family has been reunited. Most women behind bars didn’t commit violent offenses, and many are sleeping in jails just because they can’t afford bail. (Vera Institute of Justice on Facebook)

Most women in prison are not a danger to society. About 82 percent have been charged with or convicted of non-violent crimes. Two-thirds have dependent children. More than a quarter of women behind bars haven’t yet had a trial, and are only there because they don’t have money for bail.

We at Ms. magazine decided to let women in prison know they are seen and valued. We started a program to benefit women in prison, and we extended it to include women in domestic violence shelters as well. Shelters can be nearly as isolating, often lacking libraries or any reading material, just as many prisons do.

That’s why the Ms. magazine Prison and Domestic Violence Shelter Program was created. This program is funded by charitable contributions earmarked for this purpose, and also by Ms. community members who buy an extra membership for a friend they don’t know.

Now, we send Ms. to 4,853 federal, state and county prisoners, and to hundreds of shelters. That’s a fraction of the total, but it’s a number we’re proud of and keep growing because of support from Ms. readers like you.

We see the importance of this work through the letters we receive—like this one from Katherine Holmes in Tennessee.

You have been a wonderful, bright spot in an otherwise bleak existence. The prison I am currently incarcerated at places copies of your magazine out in the library for the inmates. I spend as much time as possible in there, so I’m always one of the first to snag one. 

Please make a tax-deductible contribution to the Ms. Prison and Domestic Violence Shelter Program. A generous supporter has also pledged to match all special year-end contributions to Ms. up to $10,000—so for every contribution to the program you give, we can send twice as many magazines to women in prisons and domestic violence shelters!

Let women on the inside know they are not alone. And let women in shelters know it’s unfair for them to be deprived of home while the criminal is free. Ms. and the women’s movement bring us support, facts, creativity, humor and a sense of community.

Pass it on.

GloriaByWarburg-150x150Gloria Steinem is a writer, speaker and organizer who travels here and in other countries. A co-founder of Ms., she also is active with the Women’s Media Center, Equality Now and Donor Direct Action. (Photo by Jenny Warburg.)

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