You turn to us for voices you won't hear anywhere else.

Sign up for Democracy Now!'s Daily Digest to get our latest headlines and stories delivered to your inbox every day.

In Honor of Mother’s Day, Democracy Now! Will Touch on the Issue of Incarcerated Parents by Airing the Reading of a Letter by Róisín McAliskey

Media Options


Róisín McAliskey, an Irish woman and daughter of Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, is imprisoned in a British jail. She is accused of plotting to kill a British police officer. McAliskey is pregnant and will be allowed to give birth to her child. Actress Jenny Conway reads a letter written by Róisín McAliskey to her supporters.

Related Story

StoryApr 16, 2024Yanis Varoufakis Banned from Germany as Berlin Police Raid & Shut Down Palestinian Conference
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re listening to Democracy Now! And today, as we move into a weekend that will be capped by Sunday, Mother’s Day, we thought we’d bring you a few Mother’s Day thoughts. One-and-a-half million American children will be separated from a parent in prison this Mother’s Day, making them the youngest and most vulnerable victims of the national fervor for incarceration, this according to a broad coalition of conservative and liberal groups. The coalition, which includes conservative Christian groups like the Family Research Council and liberal civil rights advocates like the ACLU, rallied on the steps of the Capitol Wednesday to spotlight the plight of thousands of children growing up with parents in prison and to encourage efforts to break the intergenerational pattern of incarceration. Effective solutions advocated by sponsors of the rally include drug treatment, literacy and job training, mentoring programs and family counseling.

On the note of mothers in prison, Róisín McAliskey, the 25-year-old daughter of Irish civil rights leader Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, is currently being held without charge in solitary confinement in London’s Holloway prison. She’s facing extradition to Germany on allegations that she plotted to kill British Army soldiers stationed in Germany. But those allegations have hardly been brought to the surface for her to be able to answer. Last month, she wrote a letter to her supporters, and this is read by actress Jenny Conway.

JENNY CONWAY: [reading Róisín McAliskey’s letter] Firstly, myself and Sean and my family would like to thank everyone for their active support. And I’d like to say what an overwhelming difference it makes to know that people do care, especially when surrounded by people who don’t. It’s in a situation like this that you realize that it is the thought that really counts. When you’re isolated from everyone, and everything you do and say is watched and monitored, your thoughts are the only thing that remains your own, which actually makes it hard to share them with anyone. So I’ll hope you’ll excuse me if this is a bit dull and muted.

Although everyone knows what a prison is, I don’t think anyone can imagine how it is until they experience it. There are no colors. Everything is white or beige, and there’s no shapes. It’s all straight lines and right angles, all smooth to touch. There’s no smells, and it’s probably a relief that the food doesn’t taste. But the oddest thing is the noise. There’s no natural noise. It’s all metallic. Even voices don’t sound natural. They lack the life of emotion or something. And it’s then that you really notice that what is really missing in prison is the beginning and the end of life. There’s no children and old people. So the emotions and reactions that old and young evoke aren’t here. There’s no real laughter or innocence or wisdom, or need to care and comfort others.

But that’s where thoughts make all the difference and remind you that life isn’t like this, and there’s more to people than prison allows you to see and feel. It’s this closed and controlled environment that leads to closed and biased minds. Out of nearly 30 women with children in the prison, only two would sit in a room with me. But when I’m treated like such a danger that I’m put in a high-security male prison, why wouldn’t they be fearful and object to having to associate with what is presented as a threat to the little they have for themselves?

There’s a prison rule that prisoners cannot share, lend or give anything to other prisoners, so that while you are removed from your family and friends, you’re prevented from building new relationships. But if you’re an Irish prisoner in England, they segregate you. They build a prison within a prison. With the men, they house them in an SSU, special security unit. And as they haven’t gotten SSU for females, I get a human equivalent, with two shadow officers accompanying at all times, human bookends, giving me my own prison within a prison.

The only problem with this is that there is no prison for thoughts. You can’t keep people from thinking, and you can’t take a thought away from someone. So, to know that I am in your thoughts makes such a difference to my thoughts and my heart that I hope you can imagine even a small part of the great lift it gives me knowing that I’m only alone in the physical sense. I’m due a month from today. And I’m very aware that it’s only through people making their thoughts known that I’m being allowed to keep my baby. So, while thanking you for all the active support, I really want to thank everyone everywhere for their thoughts. Róisín McAliskey.

AMY GOODMAN: And that was a letter written by Róisín McAliskey to her supporters. She is expected to give birth now any day in prison.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Non-commercial news needs your support

We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work.
Please do your part today.
Make a donation