“We’re here to raise the voice of those whose voices have been shut.” These were the words of Emira Woods, one of the main speakers at Ecumenical Advocacy Days this weekend, where I had the opportunity to present a workshop in my capacity as CWS staff. This year’s theme was “Breaking the Chains: Mass Incarceration and Systems of Exploitation.”
The workshop, which CWS presented together with the Washington Office on Latin America, was called, “Visible and Invisible Consequences of Mass Incarceration in Latin America.” The idea of our workshop was to provide participants with an overview and analysis on the latest Latin America and Caribbean prison population statistics, trends and demographics — the visible consequences — as well as an analysis about the characteristics and challenges faced today by approximately 2,000,000 children whose parents are in prison and their families — the invisible consequences. Our workshop also provided examples of civil society and faith-based organizations leading initiatives to support, assist and defend the rights of this population of children and families.
This was the first time I had the chance to participate in EAD. I got to meet hundreds of people that are truly committed to doing whatever is possible to end mass incarceration and its consequences. To end this system that, besides not making any sense at all from a financial perspective, violates the most basic human rights of thousands of people, many of whom should not even be in prison in the first place.
But, as they say, the most important part of the EAD is what it comes next. And this does not not mean Lobby Day, when my fellow participants met with Senators and Representatives on Capitol Hill to raise awareness around the issues surrounding mass incarceration. The most important part starts (or rather continues) when EAD advocates go back to their communities, workplaces, families and friends to do their best to work on behalf of the people that need it the most.
We at CWS will continue to implement programs and advocacy actions at the national, regional and international level with our partners so the needs and the voices of the 2,000,000 children of incarcerated parents and their families — those whose voices have been shut so far — are finally heard.
Luciano Cadoni is a Program Officer for the Protection of the Rights of the Child with CWS Latin America and the Caribbean.