Nationwide, a conversation on racial equity is intensifying. You may already know or be learning more about ways in which racial inequity has been perpetuated in America—the funding of public schools through property taxes, red lining, mass incarceration, the list goes on.
Here at Friends of Guest House, we work in the space of mass incarceration. In the last 40 years in our home state of Virginia, the women’s prison population has increased by more than 900%. We see that, too. Every year we get more than 400 applications for just 60 spots in our Residential Program.
And we see the role race plays. Our clients come from all over the state of Virginia. Though nearly half of our clients are white (49%) a disproportionate number are Black (40%). Black people make up just 19% of Virginia’s total population, yet 40% of the justice-involved women in our program are Black. Friends, it doesn’t add up. Want to learn more about why? (HINT: Black people don’t commit crimes at a higher rate than others). Read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow.
Our mission is simple: to provide formerly incarcerated women the structure, supervision, support, and assistance they need to move beyond who they were to become who they want to be. Each year, thanks to supporters like you, we invest in formerly incarcerated women to give them the opportunity to achieve freedom, true freedom. Freedom from repeat incarcerations, community supervision, onerous fines and fees.
To the Black women we serve: we see you, we hear you, we will continue to invest in you, we love you. We promise to educate ourselves on how to serve you better.
To the Black women who work with us: we see you, we hear you, we love you. We promise to educate ourselves on how to be better co-workers.
A Message from Kari Galloway, Executive Director
With liberty and justice for all…these are words that so many of us grew up reciting and yet, the events of the last week and a half show many still are suffering from a lack of justice, suffering a lack of liberty…liberty to live their lives free of fear, liberty to live their lives without the pain of violence, especially at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve.
We say the name of George Floyd.
Nowhere is systemic racism and inequality more present than in our criminal justice system. Friends of Guest House has supported women looking for liberty and justice when they leave the criminal justice system for over 45 years. We see the disproportionate impact that “justice” has on communities of color.
Today should have been Breonna Taylor’s 27th birthday, and we say her name.
No one should be above the law. We should be expected equally to follow the standard of liberty and justice for all. We should all be accountable to one another. What happens to one of us happens to us all. At Friends of Guest House we must also look within to determine that we’re supporting ALL people fairly and without prejudice. Mass incarceration, especially as it disproportionally effects our communities of color, is our country’s tragedy. Criminal justice reform isn’t an issue for communities of color only. Friends of Guest House is committed to changing the inequities within the criminal justice system.
We say Ahmaud Aubrey’s name.
I am a white woman living in America. I have lived my privilege, but I have seen great disparity. I don’t have answers, but I do know right from wrong. Thank you for standing by the women of Friends of Guest House. And thank you for standing up for the things that we all believe in…liberty and justice for all of us…now, today and forever for our future.
We say their names and may it be the last names we have to say.
Kari Galloway, Executive Director