NewsLocal NewsYour Voice


Local group sells inmates' art to raise money and awareness for families impacted by incarceration

Mothers of Incarcerated Sons and Daughters, or MISD, works to support families year-round
Posted: 5:55 AM, Jul 01, 2024
Updated: 2024-07-01 11:39:08-04
misd speaks on incarceration.jpg

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One group sold incarcerated inmates’ artwork Sunday as a part of ongoing efforts to support their families.

The group, Mothers of Incarcerated Sons and Daughters, or MISD, was formed after the founder, Bev Livingston, had a son incarcerated over a decade ago.

VOICE FOR EVERYONE | Share your voice with KSHB 41’s Rachel Henderson

“Ever since then, I’ve been on this journey and have met many other mothers who were not given a fair justice outcome when their sons and daughters were accused of a crime,” Livingston said.

Livingston has been able to create community through MISD, something she found other mothers and individuals like her were in dire need of.

livingston speaks at church.jpg
Bev Livingston speaks at her church's Family and Friends Day on behalf of MISD.

“As I met more and more Bev Livingstons, I began to see how widespread it is,” Livingston said. “It’s not just a Jackson County problem, it’s nationwide.”

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, the United States has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world with nearly two million people behind bars “at any given time.” The state of Missouri’s rate is even higher than that.

As these numbers rise, so have homicide rates in Kansas City, which saw a record high in 2023 with 182.

“As a country, we are not getting to the root of the issue, and that’s why we see the numbers continue to escalate,” said Janay Reliford, a MISD member. “Cause we’re not at the root of the problem. And really the root of the problem is still a lot of oppression, racism, poverty.”

Reliford and Livingston met doing work with the AdHoc Group Against Crime, which is where the idea for MISD stemmed from.

“We were talking about the issues we face at the AdHoc Group Against Crime with families who are dealing with homicide on a daily basis,” Reliford said. “Well on the other side of that, there’s a perpetrator, there’s somebody who committed the crime, and those family members are just as hurt and devastated as the other side. So, it’s just a way to have some full circle healing.”

fellowship at family and friends day.jpg
Attendees at Community Fellowship Church of Jesus Christ's 'Family and Friends Day' worship.

That healing extended into Sunday, where people attending Livingston’s church, Community Fellowship Church of Jesus Christ, could purchase artwork that Missouri Department of Corrections inmates created at the church's Family and Friends Day.

“Looking at all of this artwork, it has been therapeutic for me,” Reliford said. “Every piece of artwork has a story to it, and you can kind of capture a piece of the artist’s soul through their work.”

Reliford and Livingston say something victims' and perpetrators' families have in common, is loss.

“We’ve lost a couple of generations to the system of incarceration and to death,” Livingston said. “There’s an absence, there’s a recognition of how fair or unfair you’ve been treated. There’s a lot of attorney fees and other things that go into the systemic injustice that happens to us.”

She says that’s why MISD does the work it does, like advocating for policy changes and legislative reform in Jefferson City, helping people register to vote or even offering mental health support to youth missing incarcerated family members.

voting booth set up.jpg
The League of Women Voters also attended Sunday's festivities to encourage people to increase their civic engagement, incarcerated or not.

But she wants the community to know that they can be just as impactful as she is.

“Just speaking up and speaking out is the best thing for our people to start doing,” Livingston said. “I don’t think that people realize their own power to just establish an opportunity to teach the children how to be better. Be better parents, have a better community because all involved are on the same page.”