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May 11, 2008

A prison celebration of Mothers' Day

8177469_bg2 This AP article, headlined "Nursery programs allow imprisoned moms, newborns to bond," is fitting for the day. Here is an excerpt:

New York has had prison nurseries for more than a century; Washington, Ohio, California and Nebraska started ones in recent years, and West Virginia is preparing to launch one, too. The programs come at a time when the nation’s female inmate population is rising.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics shows the number of women in prisons and jails jumped from more than 163,000 in 2000 to nearly 210,000 in mid-2006, fueled largely by an increase in drug convictions that carry mandatory sentences. Many of those inmates are mothers who experts say benefit from staying with their children, even if it’s behind bars.

The Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, whose nursery program Indiana modeled, has seen 14 of its 128 participants re-offend, an 11 percent recidivism rate compared with the institution’s rate among all inmates of about 30 percent, spokeswoman Elizabeth Wright said. New York also has seen a dropoff, said Linda Foglia, spokeswoman for that state’s Department of Correctional Services.

Indiana hopes for similar results with its program, funded through a $122,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Wee Ones Nursery at the 136-year-old Women’s Prison is open to up to 10 imprisoned mothers who are the legal guardians of their children, have never been convicted of violent crimes, and have less than 18 months left on their sentences.

The nursery staff includes a pediatrician and a nurse. Inmates who serve as nannies must have nonviolent offenses and reading levels of eighth grade or higher; they also must complete a parenting class. The mothers receive courses on postpartum care, child development, shaken baby syndrome and other topics. “We hope that we’ll continue to make the family the unit that it should be and strengthen those that are going back out into the community,” prison Superintendent Zettie Cotton said.

May 11, 2008 at 08:21 AM | Permalink


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