By Rebecca Nathanson
During the year she spent in the Orange County jail in Southern California, Amika Mota wrote letters to her oldest kids, aged fourteen and eleven. That wasn’t an option for her six-year-old—she needed to hear her mother’s voice.
So once a month, the former midwife called her children, who were then living in the Bay Area with Mota’s father.
She had fifteen minutes for these calls; the kids would set a timer to make sure they each got five. It was 2008 and, despite having been in and out of the criminal justice system, Mota had never before been away from her children for such a long time. But each fifteen-minute phone call cost at least $15, so once a month was all Mota and her family could afford.