U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Prison Nurseries: New Beginnings and Second Chances

NCJ Number
Women, Girls & Criminal Justice Volume: 3 Issue: 1 Dated: December/January 2002 Pages: 1-2,14,15
Kelsey Kauffman
Date Published
4 pages
This article describes the rationale for, the components of, and the impact of prison nurseries, with attention to the nursery program at the Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW).
The ORW nursery program is open to healthy mothers convicted of nonviolent crimes who give birth while in the custody of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and have less than 18 months remaining on their sentence. The program is housed in a separate wing of one of the newest buildings on grounds that also houses the prison's boot camp and assisted living units. The nursery wing contains double-occupancy rooms for up to 20 mothers and their babies, as well as a recreation area, laundry, and the unit's own child-care center. There are prison nurseries in women's prisons in three other States: Washington, New York, and Nebraska. All require that participating babies be born after their mothers have already arrived in prison. Prison nurseries are founded on the well-documented premises that parenting is a learned skill and that the strength and continuity of the bond between a mother and her baby is critically important for both of them. Prison administrators who oversee nurseries almost universally report that they run smoothly, that the mothers and babies in them thrive, and that the presence of the nurseries contributes to the overall well-being of the institution, including both staff and inmates. Retrospective surveys suggest that recidivism rates are much lower for women who have been able to keep their babies with them in prison than they are for the general population. 4 references