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October 1, 2013

"Jailing Black Babies"

The provocative title of this post is the provocative title of this provicative new article now available via SSRN and authored by James Dwyer. Here is the abstract (the last sentence of which, I suspect, may appeal to (some? many?) readers of this blog:

In many situations of family dysfunction stemming from poverty, the interests of parents are in conflict with the interests of their offspring.  This presents a dilemma for liberals. We want to mitigate the harsh consequences and suffering that conditions we deem unjust have caused some adults, especially adults of minority race.  But we are also concerned about the welfare of children born into impoverished and troubled communities.  The predominant liberal response to this dilemma has been to sidestep it by ignoring or denying the conflict and to then take positions aimed at protecting parents’ interests, without giving serious attention to the impact on children.  The result is a set of liberal polies that effectively imprison black children in dysfunctional families and communities and so ensure that they fall into the inter-generational cycle of poverty, addiction, and criminality.

Epitomizing this phenomenon is the fast-growing phenomenon of states’ placing newborn children, predominantly of minority race, into prison to live for months or years with their incarcerated mothers.  Advocates for incarcerated women, not advocates for children, have promoted prison nurseries, and they have done so with no research support for any hope of positive child welfare outcomes.  Conservative legislators and prison officials agree to experiment with such programs when convinced they will reduce recidivism among female convicts, a supposition that also lacks empirical support.  Remarkably, states have placed babies in prisons without anyone undertaking an analysis of the constitutionality of doing so.

This Article presents a compelling child welfare case against prison nurseries, based on rigorous examination of the available empirical evidence, and it presents the first published analysis of how constitutional and statutory rules governing incarceration and civil commitment apply to housing of children in prisons.  It shows that prison nursery programs harm the great majority of children who begin life in them, and it argues that placing infants in prison violates their Fourteenth Amendment substantive and procedural due process rights as well as federal and state legislation prohibiting placement of minors in adult prisons.

This Article further challenges liberal family policy more generally.  Its final Part describes other policy contexts in which liberal advocacy and scholarship relating to persons who are poor or of minority race consistently favors the interests of adults in this population over the interests of children.  It offers a diagnosis of why this occurs, and it explains why this is both morally untenable and ultimately self-defeating for liberals committed to racial equality and social justice.  The Article’s broader thesis is that liberals bear a large share of the responsibility for perpetuation of blacks’ subordination.

October 1, 2013 at 07:54 AM | Permalink


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since everyone is a "child" till 27 now under the Health Care mandate...

Posted by: Adamakis | Oct 1, 2013 10:17:51 AM

Concurrently viewing this post and Maury.

DJB/tbm Columbus OH 43209

Posted by: Just Plain Jim (Just Another Guy) | Oct 1, 2013 10:28:57 AM

"Remarkably, states have placed babies in prisons without anyone undertaking an analysis of the constitutionality of doing so."

Hmmmmm. Last I checked, parents were the ones who, if competent, got to make decisions for their children, and in the case where the state chooses to accommodate a competent parent's decision, I don't see the constitutional issue. The race issue seems entirely pernicious here. If a mother of any race decides that this is how she wants to raise her child, then she gets to. Obviously, it is sub-optimal, but it may be the best thing for the particular child.

Why do idiot leftists want to constitutionalize everything? Probably because they have fellow-travelers who wear Supreme Court robes. Sonia Sotomayor has the view that a murderer has a constitutional right to have the State waive a winning argument in favor of the State's judgment if it has done so in other arguably similar cases. That is a whole lot dumber than this nitwit's argument.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 1, 2013 10:08:36 PM

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