Two-thirds of women in US prisons have at least one child…

October 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

… Can that really be true? According to this post from Feministing , it is, and this is only one distressing fact in what is a fairly gloomy read from a new report from National Women’s Law Center and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights. Other highlights – although admittedly that isn’t the right word – are that most women with children in prison are non-violent, first time offenders, and that 21 states in America received failing grades for their treatment of mothers in prisons.

Let’s be clear: most women in America in prison are not violent, dangerous criminals who need to be restrained for their own good and that of society. And yet, according to Mothers Behind Bars:

  • Twenty-two states either have no policy at all addressing when restraints can be used on pregnant women or have a policy which allows for the use of dangerous leg irons or waist chains.
  • Forty-nine states fail to report all incarcerated women’s pregnancies and their outcomes.
  • Forty-four states do not make advance arrangements for deliveries
  •  The percentage of females incarcerated for drug offenses now surpasses that of males – most of these women are non-violent, first-time offenders.

This paragraph from the report, presuming it is widely accurate and we have no reason to presume otherwise. is depressing, and seems to strike to the heart of the matter.

“This relatively recent phenomenon of criminalizing mothers for trauma and addiction, precipitated by the war on drugs and mandatory minimums, as well as the dearth of programs for pregnant and parenting mothers, have wreaked havoc on family stability and children’s well-being. Most incarcerated mothers have minor children and were, before their incarceration, the primary caretakers of their children.  Maternal incarceration wrongly leaves the child behind, without recognition of a child’s fundamental need for his or her mother.”

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