Mothering Series: Rose’s story

CCBF accompanies people at critical moments in their lives. We are proud to be part of a larger movement not only to abolish a vicious and violent criminal legal system but also to create places for community care. Our staff is gathering stories from mothers and mothering figures who are directly impacted by mass incarceration and the harms of this system. We share this story below with consent from the person directly impacted, and names have been changed to protect anonymity. 

Rose spent almost two years inside Cook County Jail before her bond was lowered and she was able to go home to her family. The caveat? Rose was also ordered to be surveilled by electronic monitoring (EM) from home while still fighting her court case.

At the time she went home, the Pretrial Fairness Act had not yet passed. This was before essential movement was written into law so people on EM in Illinois can go do basic things for themselves, like grocery shopping and going to the doctor. So Rose did not have any opportunities for essential movement. She was confined to the house. Because her EM shackle was linked to a box in her home that the sheriffs installed when she was brought home, she couldn’t even go on her front or back porch, because both were too far from the box. She could violate the conditions of her court-ordered EM just by going outside. The only days she got to leave the house were to attend court.

During this time, Rose lived with her mother and only got to see her two young children one or two days a week. As Rose recalls, “This was so hard on them.” They were school aged at the time, but still small, so they didn’t understand why Mommy was home but she couldn’t take them to school or pick them up. They didn’t understand why they weren’t living all together. 

“It was incredibly hard at the time. It’s hard to think about it now, even. Years later.” 

But Rose was denied movement to go out to be with her kids or even take them to doctor’s visits over and over by the sheriff’s department. “I was denied movement to look for work. I even managed to get two interviews for jobs, but was denied movement to even go to the interviews. How is someone supposed to get a job or provide for themselves or their family in any way if the sheriffs never let them?!” Rose was never able to find work while she was on EM.

“My mental health suffered a lot during this time. I am not used to being dependent on other people. I’m used to bringing in money and providing for my kids, being independent and pulling my weight. EM doesn’t let you do that. The situation put me completely at other people’s mercy. I’m very lucky I have family that was able to support me for so long. Not everyone has that.” 

But Rose found things to hang onto and keep her spirits up. The days her kids came over were like a bright light in her life. “My favorite part of all of it was just being with them. Doing simple, mundane things: them telling me about school, showing me their homework, eating dinner together, snuggling with them while watching cartoons or a Disney movie.” Rose’s whole face lights up while she talks about her kids, remembering the moments they shared during her time on EM.

“Our lives look really different now. I finally got my case resolved after over four years of fighting.” Rose and her kids live together now. They’re a little older and she says they still have a hard time with what happened. “We’ve all had to go to therapy to talk about it and try to communicate better. I know none of us can undo what happened. But I just want my kids to be okay and be healthy and to know I love them.”

While Rose still wishes sometimes that it was all just a bad dream, she is thankful for people she met that made a difference for her. “There were people from the community that helped out my family when we needed it, through mutual aid, and really kept our spirits up. It’s wonderful to find friends in unlikely places, especially when it feels like so many other people have abandoned you.” 

And she never takes for granted the time she spends with her kids and her family. “What I went through is not okay, it did not make me a better person. No one should have to endure that. But I choose to move forward with my life with grace and peace, holding my kids close and enjoying all the moments I have with the people I love. That is more important to me.”

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