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Prison Nurseries: A Pathway to Crime-Free Futures

NCJ Number
Corrections Compendium Volume: 34 Issue: 1 Dated: Spring 2009 Pages: 17-22,24
Joseph R. Carlson Jr.
Date Published
7 pages
This article reviews the recent history of prison nurseries, with a featured account of the nature and results of the prison nursery program in Nebraska, which has the second oldest prison nursery program in the country.
The goals of Nebraska’s prison nursery program as stated in the original grant proposal in November 1993 are to provide an opportunity for bonding between the inmate mother and her infant from birth through approximately 18-months old; to facilitate the inmate mother’s being a responsible parent; to assist in the mother’s development of realistic expectations for herself and her infant; to provide prenatal and infant healthcare; and to provide intervention that breaks the cycle of generational abuse and incarceration. Program components designed to achieve these objectives include the provision of inmate education that targets prenatal, parenting, infant care, and child development; hands-on training for new mothers and expectant mothers; and the development and coordination of community resources during incarceration and after release. The Nebraska nursery program has generally received positive evaluations. The most important finding from an evaluation after 10 years of operation was a lower recidivism rate of 16.8 percent for women who successfully completed the nursery program, compared with 50 percent for the previous population of women forced to give up their infants. There was also both a demonstrated and perceived decrease in misconduct reports for women involved in the nursery program. The cost to the State has been minimal, both in terms of staff and operating expenses. Ten States have created prison nurseries, with more States considering a prison nursery program. In addition to Nebraska’s program, this article briefly describes prison nursery programs in New York, Washington State, Massachusetts, Ohio, California, Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia, and South Dakota. 2 tables and 6 references