Prison-based Nursery Programs

Prison-Based Nursery Program The population for women in prisons is increasing, since 1977 their population has gone up more than eight hundred percent. “In 2004 four percent of women in state prisons and three percent of women in federal prisons were pregnant at the time of admittance. ” (Villanueva, 2009) As the rate of women inmates increase so will the number of women pregnant when incarcerated. A question that may be asked is “Where do these babies go when they are born if the mothers are in prison? There are two ways this can be dealt with, one way is the child is separated from their other at birth and the custody is given to a family member, a foster home, or something of that nature. Another way is the child stays in prison and lives with his or her mother there. The second option is called a prison-based nursery program. The purpose of this paper is to explore prison-based nursery programs and explain its success in the criminal Justice system. Up until 1950 prison-based nursery programs were very common for women through-out the prison system.

By the time the early 1970’s hit every state but New York closed their nursery programs. There ere a few factors that led to this conclusion; the cost of the program and the lack of need of the program. The program was not cheap and they found that most babies could Just be placed with family members. This seemed to be the best idea for pregnant women in prison. Recently though, the women population in prisons is at an all-time high and there is a new growing recognition of the importance of the family connection to both child and mother achievement.

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With this being the case several states today are taking steps to keep mothers and their babies together. Today in America there are nine states that allow women who are pregnant at the stage of sentencing to retain their babies with them in the walls of a correctional facility after the birth of their baby. These states are California, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Nebraska, New York, South Dakota, Washington and West Virginia. The facility in New York at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility opened in 1901 and is still up and running today.

Each state is different on how they run their nursery programs yet there are similarities within all of them. In each one of these programs every pregnant woman hat goes into the correctional system isn’t eligible for this program. To be eligible, first, the child must be born in state custody. As a rule of thumb, the mother must have been convicted of a non-violent crime and she can’t have any history of child abuse of child neglect. Also the eligibility is based on when the mother is going to be released from prison.

Every eligible woman doesn’t get into these programs either. The reason not everyone eligible gets in is because they can only hold a certain amount of mothers and children at each facility. This ranges from the lowest apacity facility in Illinois, which can hold five mothers and their children to the highest capacity facility in New York, which can hold twenty-nine mothers and their children. The amount of time the child stays with the mother is usually based off the mother’s sentence.

This doesn’t mean all e tac ties allow the same ranges ot time that a child can spend in the nursery. In South Dakota infants can only stay with their mothers for a maximum thirty days, but in Washington they allow the child to stay with the mother for up to three years. The average time an infant is allowed to tay with their mother is anywhere from twelve to eighteen months. Once the mother is accepted into the program the process begins. The prison-based nursery programs provide parenting skills and educational programming in child development.

In addition to the nursery there can be a parenting center, prenatal center, infant day care center, and a child advocacy office. Through these centers mothers can learn more about breastfeeding and learn about infant growth and development. They can also participate in support groups to help them get through what they are dealing with. At the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women inmate others that do not have a high school diploma are required to attend GED courses.

Prison-based nursery programs have multiple great qualities that go along with it. In a study done by the Women’s Prison Association (WPA) they found “When adequate resources are available for prison nursery programs, women who participate show lower rates of recidivism, and their children show no adverse effects as a result of their participation. ” (Villanueva, 2009) Some critiques of these programs will say that the prison environment isn’t good for these children and it will hurt them for later in life.

These findings though show that there aren’t any adverse effects on the children, so there can’t be too strong an argument that this affects the child. Another thing that can be looked at is some of these children are only spending a short time in this prison and by the time they grow up they might not even remember anything that happened while they were with their mother in prison. Also from the research it was seen that the rate of recidivism is lower; this is a great finding because people in the criminal Justice field want to deter crime.

This seems to be possible with women that are having babies while incarcerated. Another plus to prison nurseries is the mom can raise the child in a safe environment where she isn’t susceptible to any crime that she may have committed if she was put strait on the streets with a baby. These programs use federal money to support a baby and a mother for a short period of time and if the mother wasn’t incarcerated she may have not been able to afford this baby and she would have had to give it away or even kill it.

Also what was found positive about prison nurseries is “By keeping mothers and infants together, these programs prevent foster care placement and allow for the ormation of maternal/child bonds during a critical period of infant development. ” (Villanueva, 2009) This is saying that by keeping the mothers together instead of taking them away and putting them with family members, they are allowing a mother/child bond to take place that would otherwise be harder to accomplish. Prison-based nurseries seem to be a great success and an option that is growing in America.

The only negative about these programs is there aren’t enough of them and they can’t care for every pregnant mother. More research should be done about these facilities and they should see how hey can better the situation of the mother and her child. If more research is done and the results are as positive as the others have been about these prison-based nursery programs, I’m sure they will be popping up a lot more across America. Inmate mother Balbina Hernandez would love to see that happen .

She is a mother that was a part of a prison-based nursery program in Indiana. She was arrested for drug dealing and while in the county Jail, she found out she was two weeks pregnant. She lost her other two kids after she was arrested and she was determined to change er way and make it work this time. This program was exactly what she needed; she took a drug abuse program, attended training classes and had a baby. On her experience in this program she said “I’m Just so happy, because they’ve done so much for me here. (Chapman, 2010) In conclusion, prison-based nursery programs were looked at and their positives were shown. Research and interviewing of actually participants shows nothing but great signs. These programs used to be everyone in America and now they are rare. They of course are on the up and coming as the results seem to still be looking good. A way to deal with non-violent female mothers may be found, as of right now it’s looking that way but only time will tell.

Works Cited Chapmamn, S. (2010, August 06). Prison nursery program gets high marks. Retrieved from http://www. wthr. com/Global/story. asp? S=12940252 Mills, A. (2009, April). Women in prison fact sheet. Retrieved from http:// www. correctionalassociation. org/publications/download/wipp/factsheets/ Wome_in_Prison_Fact_Sheet_2009_FlNAL. pdf Villanueva, C. (2009, May). Mothers, infants and imprisonment. Retrieved from http:// wpaonline. org/pdf/Mothers Infants and Imprisonment 2009. pdf


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