Mothers in Prison: Restoring Maternal Bonds and Mental Health
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In 2016, the number of women in American prisons was 213,722 (Incarcerated Women and Girls, 2018). This is a 700% increase since 1980, when a total of 26,378 women were incarcerated. Of these prisoners, over 60% have at least one child under the age of 18. Incarceration is a dramatic turning point for the entire family, especially in the case of single mothers who are forced to separate from their children. These mothers lose connections with their children, further increasing recidivism rates. Children without a stable homelife or children living around criminal lifestyles are less likely to escape their environment's unlawful behavior, further advancing cycles of deviancy. Changing the succession of recidivism and inherited crime habits comes in the form of redesigning our criminal justice programs. One newly emerging option for incarcerated mothers is prison nursery programs. A limited number of institutions in the United States today will accept women along with their children and, if they do, many stipulations restrict the woman's full ability to create a healthy attachment, as well as a successful integration back into society. In this work, I will explore how the criminal justice system can improve upon the female prisoner's rehabilitation process by creating more mother-and-child bonding programs, as well as adding a mental-health curriculum. With these additions, I believe that recidivism rates will likely decrease due to prison nurseries and mental rehabilitation programs organized for female prisoners.