Should female inmates with babies be allowed to serve their time with their baby by their side? Is it healthy for the children? Will it help the moms stay out of trouble once they get released? Will it help our society in general?
Several prisons across the country have prison nurseries. These allow moms to keep their babies, usually less than eighteen months, in prison while they serve their time. The article “Bringing Up Baby in the Big House” states that mothers receive parenting classes and counseling. The programs strive to help mothers reform to stay out of prison. Joseph Carlson, a criminal justice professor, who has determined the programs to be a win-win situation. For more insight on this issue, check out “Babies Behind Bars” and “Prison Nursery Programs a Growing Trend in Women’s Prisons.”
There are many positive and negatives of this situation. One of the positives is that it does allow the inmate to establish a bond with her baby. This could be less traumatic for a baby who is reunited with his/her mom, who he/she doesn’t know, at the age of 15 months. Some argue that this will also prevent the moms from offending again, since a bond with her child will motivate her to make positive choices. According to “Prison Babies” the recidivism rate in some prison nurseries is 15%, as compared to 47% in a traditional prison.
Another benefit is that these programs might help stop the abuse cycle. Many of these moms themselves were the victims of child abuse. And, if they are taught proper parenting skills, while living with their babies, it could help end the cycle.
A third benefit is that babies are able to be breastfed. The medical community agrees that breastfeeding is the healthiest choice for a child. (Read “Reasons to Breastfeed” for more on the benefits of breastfeeding.)
However, many have argued against these programs. Some might say it is just not healthy to have a baby locked inside for 24 hours a day, with no chance for seeing the outside world. They can’t hear birds chirp, dogs bark, or feel the wind blow. They can’t see the sun, play with sand, or interact much with the outside world.
Another complaint is that these programs are expensive. However, it is significantly less cheaper than having to pay for the children to be raised in foster care. (Statistically children raised in foster care have significantly higher behavioral issues.)
Another point is that it would be cheaper for the moms to have a different form of punishment. Instead of serving an 18 month sentence, they could serve a three year weekend-only sentence. Or, they could be required to do community service. But, of course, its not fair for someone’s sentence to be changed simply because they have had a child.
If you are writing a research paper or argumentative essay on prison nurseries, it might be helpful to contact a psychologist for an expert quote. Read “How to Find a Psychologist for a Quote for a Research Paper” for advice. If you want some opinions from the general public and possibly family members, you might ask on the message boards at “Prison Talk” here.
These programs are probably here to stay, as they have been around for several years. Perhaps new ones will begin in other states. It is a controversial issue, but does it really matter to the child? If the child knows his/her mommy, will he/she really care that he/she can’t see the clouds? And, if it helps the mom became a good mother to her children, these programs are worth the added expense.