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Prison Nursery Essay

The authors describe prison nurseries as living arrangements within a correctional facility that allow incarcerated mothers to keep their infants (born during their incarceration) with them through all or part of their sentence. This article brings to question whether these women should be treated any differently than any other incarcerated women and who should pay for these programs. The authors note that this may be one of the most controversial debates surrounding the imprisonment of women. At the time of this study, the authors note that there are currently 8 states that provide prison nursery programs: California, Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, South Dakota, and Washington. This is up from only 3 states in 1998 and notes that New York has had a prison nursery program since 1901. The authors illustrate studies that have shown that the recidivism rate among women who have been allowed to keep their children in prison nurseries is lower than that of other women. However, limited studies have been cited concerning the development of children born into and raised within a prison nursery program. The authors discuss the cost of prison nursery programs as being one major hurdle into starting and/or continuing these programs. Most nursery programs are segregated from the general prison population and are staffed with both civilian and correctional staff, allowing for public and private funding to be used. The authors’ note that a large percentage of the children in prison nursery programs would otherwise be cared for through public dollars whether it be within the foster care system or public assistance to the interim caregiver during the mother’s incarceration so there seems to be little difference in the funding or use of funding in terms of child care. Through several studies the authors note the strict guidelines for eligibility for these programs, including type of crime, past history of abuse, and length of sentence. Each program has its on set of criteria and rules but the authors state that the idea behind the programs is the same wherever it is incorporated and that is to provide an opportunity for mother and child to succeed. The authors conclude that prison nurseries should be more widely available as the trend of women being incarcerated has continued to rise and no decline seems to be forthcoming. They note that studies into the long term effects on children born into prison nurseries is also needed as well as re-entry into society must be closely monitored and facilitated in order for true results to be determined.

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