1 in 25 female inmates is pregnant when the prison doors lock behind her
June 22, 2015 12:59 PM   Subscribe

Prison Born. What becomes of babies born to mothers behind bars? Research suggests that having nurseries in prisons leads to lower recidivism rates among incarcerated mothers and better outcomes for their children.
posted by blue_beetle (15 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is a humane, cost-effective solution that would reduce crime and save money. So obviously I'm not optimistic about its prospects.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:06 PM on June 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


Not to bang on one of my old weird drums or anything, but I am increasingly certain that the extraction of misery from members of the underclass in this country is seen by Americans as as itself being a positive good, without regard to any misguided ideas about the extraction of misery as being necessary for rehabilitation or justice. As such, the production of broken lives through the prison system cannot be viewed as a cost that we as Americans collectively must try to minimize, but instead as a positive, pleasurable luxury that Americans on the whole think is worth paying for.

We like to see people broken. For whatever reason, on the whole we enjoy reducing others to sacrificial objects. We can't expect that feature of our culture to go away if only we educate people enough, or raise enough awareness, or whatever. Awareness raising, as a strategy, only makes sense in a situation wherein people a) aren't already aware and b) don't already prefer the current arrangement of things.

I have absolutely no idea what to do with the terrible fact that Americans already know about how things are, and on the whole prefer things that way. Mostly I'm just trying to get myself to actually accept that no amount of shaming or tut-tutting will make this grim feature of our culture go away.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:40 PM on June 22, 2015 [28 favorites]


I have absolutely no idea what to do...

I think all you can do is factor it into your plans and expectations, and proceed accordingly. It's grim and utilitarian, but you're somewhat less likely to be surprised or disappointed by the outcomes. And, frankly, I like not being surprised by things that happen, because when you're below a certain point on the social ladder, you're overwhelmingly likely to experience bad surprises instead of good surprises. And bad surprises have a tendency to snowball into huge piles of steaming clusterfuck, which (while predictable) is no fun to try to survive.
posted by spacewrench at 2:12 PM on June 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Awareness raising, as a strategy, only makes sense in a situation wherein people a) aren't already aware and b) don't already prefer the current arrangement of things.

It's a little more complex than that. We want clemency and understanding for our friends and families (and, perhaps, celebrities we like), while wanting savage retribution for anyone more than a little different from ourselves. The separation of the poor and wretched into "deserving" and "guilty" is a sop for the terrible fear that almost everyone not on the highest rungs of society feels over the nagging idea "that could be you..."

Those sacrificial objects are eagerly fed to the Machine so it will pass us over. The Law bludgeons others so it will spare us. Moloch, Moloch, Moloch, indeed.


Ahem. Reading the article, it seems the height of folly that a society that viciously denigrates single mothers, would then punish a family for trying to remain together. Almost literally damned if you do and damned if you don't.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:33 PM on June 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


Almost literally damned if you do and damned if you don't.

yeah, that was the thing that got me all soapboxy. this (like most stories about the American prison system) seems on the face of it to be less about dishing out punishment for guilt, and more about the manufacture of guilt in order to provide a cover story that might justify the dishing out of punishment. And it's always possible to manufacture guilt, provided you choose victims who are too weak to defend themselves.

America is in a violently abusive relationship with itself.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:44 PM on June 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


For certain subsets of the population, there is no room to fuck up. I can't imagine what my life would be like if there wasn't room for me to recover from my poor choices. It shouldn't be a privilege, but it is.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 4:46 PM on June 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


I find it extremely difficult to believe that this is better for the children. (And I consider that facet to be more important than the prospect for the mothers.)

There are also Constitutional issues involved: you are imprisoning the children who are innocent of any crime and never stood trial. That's a gross violation of the child's civil rights.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:16 PM on June 22, 2015


I find it extremely difficult to believe that this is better for the children. (And I consider that facet to be more important than the prospect for the mothers.)

The article references several studies that show that the children in these programs have a better outcome than children who are in the same situation, but who don't stay with their mothers.

There are also Constitutional issues involved: you are imprisoning the children who are innocent of any crime and never stood trial. That's a gross violation of the child's civil rights.

And children are imprisoned in their bedrooms every day!

Seriously, though, children--especially young children--have different needs and ways of experiencing the world than adults do. That is why they have different rights than adults do (and the government has different obligations to them than the government does to adults).
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:22 PM on June 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


Here in Minnesota, the Minnesota Prison Doula Project (formerly "Isis Rising") helps expectant incarcerated mothers and provides parenting classes at the women's prison and county jails.

"Statistics show that in the year before Isis Rising systematically provided doula care at Shakopee, seven of 11 (63 percent) babies born to inmates were by costly cesarean section. The number dropped to one in 29 (three percent) among babies born with doula support (October 2011-October 2013). Also, no doula babies were preterm or low birth weight."

True Stories of Giving Birth Behind Bars - "The Minnesota Department of Corrections prohibits female inmates from spending more than two days with their newborns after delivery."
"In the United States, 10 states have prison nursery programs in certain facilities that allow incarcerated mothers to stay with their babies for a few months. In Washington state, that period extends to nearly three years. In New York, if an inmate is granted permission to be housed in a facility with a nursery, she can stay with her child for up to a year. Minnesota, however, has no such nurseries and does not allow mothers to nurse their infants after they leave the hospital. Breast pumps are also prohibited in Shakopee, so once the new mothers are returned to their cells, they have to find other ways of extracting the milk, including squeezing it out in the showers."
posted by belladonna at 5:26 PM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Seriously, though, children--especially young children--have different needs and ways of experiencing the world than adults do. That is why they have different rights than adults do (and the government has different obligations to them than the government does to adults).

That is true, in a sense, but I don't think I've ever heard anyone use that as a justification for imprisoning children without trial.

And I don't think your argument would survive judicial review.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:28 PM on June 22, 2015


"The Minnesota Department of Corrections prohibits female inmates from spending more than two days with their newborns after delivery...Breast pumps are also prohibited in Shakopee, so once the new mothers are returned to their cells, they have to find other ways of extracting the milk, including squeezing it out in the showers."

I remain convinced that whatever negative consequences might result from the total abolition of prisons, these consequences are tiny compared to the unforgivable crimes against nature and humanity that happen every day in American prisons, crimes against nature and humanity committed under the color of law.

Shut it down. Shut it all down. Shut it all down now.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:35 PM on June 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


[One comment deleted. Sorry to cut it off at this point, but seriously debating whether prisons should exist at all will take us far, far afield from the much more specific birth-and-infancy-in-prisons story the post is about. ]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:24 PM on June 22, 2015


That is true, in a sense, but I don't think I've ever heard anyone use that as a justification for imprisoning children without trial.

Then you know nothing about the juvenile justice system. They do not have the same types of trials as adults. Nowhere close. Children can also be moved to highly restrictive group homes simply because the state has nowhere else to put them. These things have survived judicial review since forever. You are profoundly ignorant of this topic if you think otherwise.

Even if it made any sense to speak of the rights of infants as though they were at all the same as the rights of adults, your comparison hinges on the fact that both infants and their mothers are literally in the prison building, and therefore the children are experiencing the same "punishment" or "imprisonment" as their mothers. Being in the same location as a prisoner is not the same as experiencing imprisonment. Unless you're saying that correctional officers are being "imprisoned" without a trial? After all, they spend time in prisons! Prisons, where prisoners live! What else could they be there if not imprisoned, according to your logic?

Your argument is rendered even more inane by the fact that your points are addressed in the very article we are discussing. You might look to the law professor cited in the article for some support, even though I doubt you'll understand enough about what he's saying to do much more than argue from authority.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:54 PM on June 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


I believe that kids under five or so don't really recognize their surroundings. At that age, their best influence is being near their mom. In the choice between a foster family and a daily interaction - even in a limited environment - with their birth mother is sooo much better,
posted by bendy at 11:58 PM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


These kids are "imprisoned" in the sense they are in prison, yes. But they can leave any time if their parents see fit.
posted by BibiRose at 6:56 AM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


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