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Mothers in Prison

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 63 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2001 Pages: 62-65
Kelsey Kauffman
Susan L. Clayton
Date Published
February 2001
4 pages
This article looks at the evolution of women’s prisons in the United States as it relates to the separation and non-separation of young children from their incarcerated mothers.
In the 1950’s, many women’s prisons had nurseries in which infants could stay with their mothers from several weeks to 2 years, depending on the institution. Within 2 decades, every State except New York closed them. In 1970, families were more stable and structured, so when mothers went to prison, their children were more likely to remain within a family unit. By 1998, the situation changed drastically: 80 percent of women in Federal and State prisons, local jails, and juvenile facilities were mothers, with an average of two or three children, most younger than 18. New programs aimed at preserving and enhancing the mother-child bond, from special visitation areas to the reintroduction of prison nurseries, have been implemented in prisons across the Nation. The article looks across the ocean to the century-old maximum security prison for women at Preungesheim, in Germany, as perhaps the most comprehensive program anywhere in the world for incarcerated mothers and their children. In conclusion, a prison sentence or residential treatment program can provide an opportunity to strengthen the mother-child bond instead of crippling it. References