Pillows for Prisoners

For: Female Inmates at the Salt Lake County Jail
Salt Lake City, UT
Organizer: The Suite Sisters
Pillows for Prisoners (Female Inmates at the Salt Lake County Jail)
$7,252
of $10,000 goal.
Raised by 182 donors
72% Complete

The Story

The What: Pillows for Prisoners began as an initiative to get pillows to female inmates in the Salt Lake County Jail for Christmas (with an initial estimated goal of $3,500 - $4,000). 

The Why: When our younger sister was incarcerated earlier this summer for a non-violent crime, a pillow was one of the first things she asked for–well, a pillow and a hair tie. We learned she was trading food for a hair-tie from a fellow inmate. 

The Wake-Up Call: Prior to her incarceration, we had never experienced having a loved-one in jail. We did not realize that inmates did not get pillows. 

While our sister has spent years under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and even been through rehab about a decade ago, it was not until recently we discovered she was the victim of sexual assault when she was drugged at a party her freshman year of college--just 17 years old, while she was on scholarship playing volleyball at a small STEM university in Arizona.

The college incident changed the direction of her life and our family’s – but by the time we found out what had happened, years of shaming, victim blaming and abuse had already occurred. She had been trying to self-medicate for decades. 

We’ve learned through her experience that even if an inmate had money to purchase a pillow through commissary, the process takes multiple days – or even more than a week to get a pillow--depending on when they are processed, and when their order date is, etc. But Celeste shared that in her "Pod" of 60 women, only 5 or 6 had pillows.

60% of women in jail have not been convicted of a crime. 

We know our sister is not innocent. She knows she is not innocent. We also know that like our sister, many of the inmates are products of circumstance. We think that every prisoner deserves to have a place to rest their head. If we could help facilitate making their stay a little less traumatic–especially during the holidays–we would like to help.

While we have experience in service and outreach projects in various sectors of the community – from House of Hope to the Road Home, and even our refugee population – this experience with our sister, pointed out our own ignorance, and the reality that inmates are a forgotten public to the general public. We’d like to do something to change that.

Why only the women? We’re brand new to this sort of endeavor; and while we've dabbled in community service and outreach in plenty of other spaces, gifts to inmates is way outside our typical bailiwick. So we had to start somewhere. Our introduction to the jail system is limited at best, but we knew we wanted to do something; and our experience began with one female inmate, our sister–so that’s where we started.

How it Works: Funds raised are turned over to Salt Lake County and earmarked for pillows. The jail makes a mass order and pillows will be distributed to incarcerated females for the holidays. Our hope is that even if these women are spending Christmas in jail, with a gift of a pillow comes a small assurance that someone is thinking of them--with hopes and prayers for a better life as they lay their head down to rest during a special, but often particularly difficult time of year. Just $11 can make a difference. 

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on November 30, 2017

UpdateImage

Posted on November 30, 2017

What an exciting day! We officially hit $7k in donations today -- which is especially significant since our first proposal to the jail had a targeted goal amount of $3500. 

So that's right -- we've officially doubled our initial goal! 

We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday -- and a delightful Giving Tuesday. 

This morning, after teaching yoga in the A-Block at the jail, I learned from Lt. Dietrich that he had sent in the official order request for the pillows, and we discussed some target dates for getting SO Numbers  (short for Sheriff's Officer Numbers, or basically inmate identifier numbers) written on the pillows once the shipment arrives. 

In essence, you can't stop the PROGRESS when it comes to the pillow-train! We keep moving forward, one donation, one conversation and one social media share at a time. 

Thanks so much for you support! 


Peace, Love & Pillows, 

Sabrena for the Suite Sisters


Posted on November 23, 2017

UpdateImage

Posted on November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving from the Suite Sisters! 

We were blessed with the chance to all get together and celebrate Thanksgiving a little early so Cicely (the youngest of the four girls), could get back to her husband For the holiday.

The big news is that the County Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to accept the funds and so the next step will be the jail placing the order for (just shy of) 600 Pillows! 

There are currently about 325 women at the Metro jail, so we have a plethora of pillows to outfit for, and through, the holidays. 

Your help in making this miracle happen has been truly something for all of us to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. 

Peace, Love & Pillows,

The Suite Sisters 


Posted on November 16, 2017

UpdateImage

Posted on November 16, 2017

It's a day of celebration! 

We heard on NPR this morning that it was National Philanthropy Day, and we couldn't think of a better way to celebrate than turning over our first check ($5,900) to Salt Lake County. (The picture is Cassandra, the eldest of the Suite Sisters, high-fiving Chief Dumont after turning over the funds and paperwork for our first installment.) 

It was a pretty incredible afternoon as the three of us --Cassandra, Sabrena and Celeste--went to the jail together (our youngest, Cicely was there in spirit). The last time we were all on property together, there was a glass window separating us. Today, we held hands, spoke with the officers and reflected on how far our family has come in the last few months through this experience. 

We got confirmation today that the jail negotiated the pillows for even less than $10 a piece, so our first payment represents close to 600 pillows! 

And last night represented a particularly unique and special event for Pillows for Prisoners and we presented to a group of women in the Olympus Hills Relief Society (LDS Women's Group), and talked about Celeste's #MeToo story and so many of the realities these women face. There were a lot of tears shed, hearts softened and donations made. We walked away from the event with just shy of $450 worth of donations. 

Things should go to City Council in the next week or two, and the jail is hoping to make the order by December 1st.  

Thank you for your support! 


Peace, Love and Pillows!!!!

The Suite Sisters

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