Links of interest

Addiction and Pregnancy

Coloring Isn't Just For Kids. It Can Actually Help Adults Combat Stress.

Watch John Oliver Explain How Broken America’s Prison System Is

News Update: Iowa Bill Tasks Corrections Department with Developing Shackling Rules

Iowa makes steps towards limiting shackles for pregnant women. 

Read about it at

Pregnant and Addicted 

This article talks about the real challenges that addicted mothers face while pregnant. The article features a local Midwife and Obstetrician sharing their work in the field. Many of the moms in the Isis program are facing these same challenges...being pregnant and addicted. 

Click here for the story. 

Working to Aid Children of Jailed Parents

This article introduced a statewide effort to improve services for children whose parents are in jail. Kathleen Creamer, an attorney for Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, focused her study on children of Philadelphia inmates. She found many caseworkers unfamiliar with how to cut through bureaucracy of incarceration, some did not know how to arrange visits or help children with mail letters. She developed tools to make it easier for parents and children to keep in touch, such as a "protect your rights" flier for parents, a form letter to simplify sending mail, and "frequently asked questions" for caseworkers. 

Click here to learn more! 

Gender-Specific Treatment of Incarcerated Women

This articles addresses the new approach some state Department of Corrections are taking with women behind bars. Professor Patricia Van Voorhis from the University of Cincinnati has traveled the country speaking to women behind bars finding out what drove them to commit crimes. Based on her ten year study, the DOC is embracing the findings of Dr. Van Voorhis and creating a "Gender Responsiveness Action Plan."
Click on the link to learn more.

  Helping Children of Incarcerated Parents

This article includes the description of a tool-kit for children of incarcerated parents. Federal organizations are coming together to help these children, who may not understand what is going on in their home, or why the police hauled one of their parents out of the house. There may be negative implications for children with an incarcerated parent, like feeling the stigma from peers, or feeling confused. Having some kind of tool to help the caregiver explain why a parent is in prison may reduce those implications. To read more click here.


Virtual Visitation in Florida Jail

This article discusses a program that allows children to video chat with their incarcerated parent.  There are some benefits to such visitation procedures, such as reduced costs, greater feasibility for caregivers and children, and less transportation needs. The article tells the story of a girl who has been able to visit with her mother since she was six months via this program.  Read the article here to learn more about virtual visitation!

In many states, "fetal rights" laws are putting pregnant women in jail: Several states have laws that place the rights of fertilized eggs above women's constitutional rights and safety

"I didn't know unborn children had lawyers," Beltran told the Times. Beltran went in for a prenatal checkup and told her doctor she used to be addicted to pills, but was now clean which was proved by a urine test. However, a doctor and a social worker wanted her to start an anti-addiction drug. Beltan refused and weeks later was arrested. Read the rest of the story here!

Mothers  in Prison: Another Falling Apart Brick in the Family's Foundation

The number of women, who now constitute the fastest growing segment of the prison population. Between 1995 and 2006, the Correctional Association of New York reported that "the number of women inmates in state and federal prisons nationwide increased by 64 percent." Most of these offenders are mothers, and most often it is their children who pay the highest price for their incarceration. Although children of incarcerated mothers are still able to cope- and overcome- the challenges set before them, there is always some residual emotional damage. Children whose mothers are sent to prison are called "crime's invisible victims" and they can range anywhere in age, from several weeks to 18 years old. Read the article to find out more: click here

Mothers and their Young Daughters Reconcile at Orleans Parish Prison

The program "Beyond Bars" is a new program through the Girl Scouts. In New Orleans, this new prison program allows mothers and their daughters to reunite once every month to eat a meal together. Because the purpose of the Girl Scouts is to encourage young girls to become leaders in their communities, the organization recognizes that if a child has a parent in prison, they themselves are likely to go to prison. In attempts to decrease the risk for this young population, they came up with "The Girl Scouts Beyond Bars". Click here for the link to The Girl Scouts Beyond Bars webpage, and click here for the link to the article "Mothers in jail reunite with young daughters in new program at Orleans Parish Prison".

Prison mural displayed in art museum

A mural originally designed for a New York City jail is currently on display at a museum in Washington.  The artist, Faith Ringgold, was influenced by the inmates at the jail, interviewing the women on what they would like to see included in the mural. After the jail was converted into a male facility the art work was covered up, but later a successful effort was made to restore the piece. Read the whole article here.

W&M project impacting incarcerated, pregnant women and their babies

The William and Mary Healthy Beginnings Project has been helping over 70 pregnant incarcerated women this pas year. The projects goal is to provide nutritional support as well as counseling to the soon to be mothers. The mothers are also allowed to continue the program after they are released. Read the article to find out the results of their program here.

'Sesame Street' addresses growing number of children with an incarcerated parent

 "Sesame Street" aired an episode titled "Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration," which introduced the first muppet to have a parent in jail. Sofia, a human character on Sesame Street explained to two other muppet characters the meaning of incarceration. She told them that incarceration is when someone who breaks the law will be sent to the jail or prison. Sesame Street's incarceration episode intends to educate children how to manage their range of emotions when a parent is in the jail. Click here to read more.

Mothers Do Jail Time at Home

 Most inmates are held in prison, behind bars, and separated from their loved ones; in Brooklyn, New York, however, there is another option. Some incarcerated women are able to complete their sentence at home, without going to jail, with close supervision. There is even an option for inmates who do not have a home; the Brooklyn District Attorney opened a house, for homeless inmates, where they are able to live with their children. The article below includes input from inmates who spent their sentences in the house provided by the DA. Click the link below to read more.

"Parents in Prison & What It's Doing to Children"

Child Trends has recently released a blog post on how children with an incarcerated parent fare worse than other children. The blog is succinct, and provides ideas of alternatives to prison based on the blog post "Parents in Prison: Why keeping Low-level Drug Offenders in Prison Hurts Kids, and What the Justice Departments is Doing to Help" by Nicholas Carrington.
Click the link below to read the blog.

H.O.P.E. for Previously Incarcerated Women

Below is a link to the website for H.O.P.E., an organization run by Sheryl Abel of Illinois. The program provides services for previously incarcerated women, such as trained substance abuse and mental health counselors, clothing for job interviews, and the ability to get licensed in hair dressing and food sanitation. Abel herself was in and out of prison and jail throughout her life and hopes to give other formally incarcerated women a second chance.  She often returns to facilities as a part of her nonprofit work.  Abel says, "' I no longer have a one-way ticket into prison, but a round-trip ticket. And now I can enter through the front door.'" A link to an article in the Chicago Tribune about the program can also be found below.

California prisons: 'Solitary Confinement can amount to cruel punishment, even torture' - UN rights expert

A UN expert on torture has begun to speak out about banning the use of solitary confinement for prolonged or indefinite amounts of time. Especially an absolute ban for pregnant women, women with infants and breastfeeding mothers as well as juveniles, people with mental illnesses and other health conditions. Read more here!

Piper Kerman Discusses Her Experience in Prison and the Netflix Series Orange is the New Black

The link below is an interview with Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black, who spent a year in a federal prison.  Kerman is also the real life counterpart to the character Piper Chapman who appears in the Netflix adaptation of the book.  Piper discusses some similarities and differences between her experiences and what the media portrays in the series.  Below this link is the interview with series creator Jenji Kohan. 

Can Prison Be a Healing Place?  

When Mark Kawika Patterson became a warden at a women's correctional center in Hawaii, the facility was lacking in funds. This new warden went looking for help within the community. This article talks about how people around the Honolulu area were willing to help inmates begin to "heal."
Read the whole article by clicking the link below:

Babies behind bars: Motherly love or Abuse?

This Article gives background information of which states in the US allow women to keep their babies and for how long. It also weighs the pros and cons for having such programs exist. 

Click the link below and then tell HLN your thoughts yourself-

A father-daughter dance - in jail

Camp Divas, an organization devoted to empowering African-American girls hosted an annual "Date with Dad" dinner and dance outside prison walls. The organization launched the jail event in 2012 to provide inmates a chance to build family relationships. On March 16, 2013 twelve lucky inmates from Virginia's Richmond City Jail were given the opportunity to spend a few precious hours with their daughters.

Click the link below to read more about the event. (Photos available)

Women in Prison Illegally Sterilized

This disturbing article discusses how pregnant women in California prisons were being talked into sterilization after giving birth to their child.  Some women felt coerced into the procedure and now regret making such a major decision.  One mother who had the procedure done said that now, given the choice, "I wish I never would have had it done." Women in prison are still human beings and deserve to have their reproductive rights upheld and make important decisions, such as this one, without feeling any pressure. Please read the whole article below:

Mother’s Day in Prison

This article talks about the importance of visiting and maintaining a relationship with one’s incarcerated mother. It is not only beneficial for the parent, but also for the child. This story includes brief statements from a few mothers in prison, whose children visited them on Mother’s Day. Read the whole article by clicking on the link below:


What It's Like Raising Kids from Prison [PHOTOS]

This is an article that explains how countries all over the world have women and children stay together behind prison bars. It also has some amazing photos to go along with the stories. 

"Born Into Cell Blocks"

This article describes the children living in a jail in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.  Here children often live alongside drug cartel and possibly get roped into the intergenerational cycle of crime themselves.  Read the entire article below:

Pregnant Women Often Denied Care

While there have been some advancements for pregnant women when it comes to eliminating shackling during birth, incarcerated pregnant women are still receiving poor health care.  Women's pregnancies sometimes result in miscarriages, no birth at all, or are never taken to the hospital.  It is imperative that pregnant incarcerated women receive better health services to keep both themselves and children safe.

"The Day My Mother Was Sent Away"

This poem by Wenona Thompson demonstrates the struggles that families face when a member is incarcerated.  Wenona describes how she didn't understand why her mother was taken away from her and how difficult it will be getting to know her after they had been separated for so long.  Read the whole poem below:

Parenting in Prison: The Fight of a Mother

Assia was incarcerated when she was 3-months pregnant, and had a 7-month old at home. Being separated from her 7-month old and her newborn at the time was extremely difficult for Assia, but she never gave up hope. Assia recounts her story and the fight it has taken to develop and maintain a relationship with her children from prison. Although many critics may think parenting is impossible from behind bars, or that is should not be done, Assia's story reminds us all that incarceration should not mean dehumanization, and that children need their parents, despite the circumstances. Click on the link below to hear more:

The Struggles of Being Pregnant While in Prison

This article is about a young Michigan woman, Kebby Warner. Kebby talked about the struggles she faced while being incarcerated through her whole pregnancy. She included the ups and downs she experienced, being stripped searched while six months pregnant, and also how she was in the pregnancy unit.  In addition, this article also mentions the devastation she experienced after she gave birth. Read the whole article by clicking on the link below:


Mother-Baby Program Cancellation At Alouette Correction Centre Challenged in Court

In Vancouver, a group of women are challenging the right to take care of their babies in prison. The program closed in 2008 and now their lawyers are taking the case to the B.C. Supreme Court saying that the canceling of the program violates a baby's rights for maternal care, but discriminates against female prisoners, too. 

The article can be read here.

Ending Shackling During Prison Births

This article by Dee Ann Newell describes the inhumane practice of shackling incarcerated women during birth.  The  author describes her varied experience with traumatized and incarcerated mothers and the issues these women face.  Newell has advocated and is currently advocating for policies to end shackling during birth.  In the past, she made this issue public and was banned from the prison where she provided parenting classes for incarcerated women (which no longer exist in said prison). Read the whole article below:

ACLU sends letter to county about obligation to pregnant inmates

"Pregnant woman in the Clearfield County Jail will receive top quality care during their incarceration." The policy will also tell pregnant inmates of their rights to have an abortion as well as "ensure that pregnant women get proper prenatal care and nutrition while serving their sentences."

For more information read it here

Pitbulls and Parolees

This is a very interesting show on animal planet that follows a woman named Tia who owns a ranch/rescue shelter for abandoned pit bulls.  Tia's husband was incarcerated and therefore, she knows the many difficulties that come with an incarcerated family member.  The really interesting thing about this show is that she only hires parolees to work at the pit bull ranch, offering jobs to those who often find it difficult to find work.  The show airs on Animal Planet.  See the link below for the channel schedule.

"Incarcerated Mother Denied Right to Pump; Husband Seeks Donor Milk for Baby"

This past week on April 14th, 2013, a mother in New Mexico nursed her 3 month old baby for the last time. Three years ago, this 23 year old mother ran herself into some trouble and was awaiting her final court ruling. During this time, she put her life back together and had a baby earlier this year, but was recently sentenced to jail. She asked Taos County Adult Detention Center for provisions to pump breast milk for her baby. She was denied. After 3 days of her husband and the birthing and breast feeding community fighting for the approval, she was allowed to give only 2 bags per day, 2 ounces each, of breast milk. This is not enough for her baby and their baby isn't digesting formula well. Her husband cannot afford to buy donor milk, so this site has displayed their story and included contact information for those who may be willing to donate breast milk to this family.

A Sentence Apart

This documentary is about 3 individuals, Tenea, Linda and Cheyanne, who all have one thing in common: an incarcerated family member.  The film follows the moving stories of these women and the struggles they face.  You can watch the trailer here and learn more about this wonderful film:

Pregnant Shenandoah woman headed to state prison

Here is a story of how this woman will be cared for in prison during her sentence. You can read more about the this woman's case here:

Statistics on Incarcerated Women

The sentencing project came out with these statistics on incarcerated women in 2012.  It includes information on racial disparities, gender differences, and mothers in prison. You can find more info here:

"Visiting Mom, in prison: bill would launch visitation program for children of imprisoned mothers"

Last year, (March 2012) Missouri's legislature talked about endorsing a two year testing program in which the DOC would allow monthly transportation for children who live more than 50 miles away to visit their incarcerated parents. Two men's prisons and two women's prisons were selected to be the trial run for this program. This program start January 2014, and in 2017, the DOC is to submit a final report on the programs effect.

Programs help pregnant inmates at Western Massachusetts Regional Women's Correctional Center in Chicopee

This article shows the multiple ways the facility cares for their pregnant inmates. They help the future mothers while they are pregnant with "a wide array of services in the jail to help assure her baby gets the best start" such as nutrition classes. There are also services aimed to help the women cope with emotion and physical toll when they lose custody of the child. The facility also has a midwife on their medical staff and a system that allows the new born child to continue getting breast milk from the incarcerated mother.

Children of Incarcerated Parents Task Force

Nationally, Oklahoma has the largest number of women going to prison, and that number is still increasing. It is also ranked fourth in the number of men going to prison. The Oklahoma task force was created to look at the needs of children with a parent in prison. To see more of their objectives and recommendations, read this article!

Symposium Examines Needs of Children of Incarcerated Mothers

This article talks about an organization in Chapel Hill called Our Children's Place. Their work is focused on keeping mothers involved with their children while being incarcerated.

Mothers in prison: The impact of incarceration on motherhood

We recently came across a great video produced by the Penn Program on Documentaries and the Law.  The video, "Mothers in prison: The impact of incarceration on motherhood" presents stories from inmates at the Riverside Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania.  Their stories illustrate many of the issues incarcerated mothers experience, including the moms we work with in Minnesota's prison.

Shackling During Births

In this article, Dee Ann Newell describes the unjust and painful shackling that her incarcerated friend Shawanna experiences during child birth.  While giving birth, Shawanna had three point shackles as well as a belly chain, which caused her physical pain and possibly harm to her child.  After experiencing such trauma, Shawanna decided to take her case to court, where the jury awarded her a degrading and condescending dollar ($1.00) in damages.  These unfair, horrifying violations of human rights should keep everyone fighting for a more just penal system.

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

Orange is the New Black is the true story of Piper Kerman's year in a federal women's prison.  Throughout her incarceration in what is known as "The Camp" at the Federal Correctional Institution- Danbury, Kerman seems to learn quite a bit about herself and the other women in the facility.  The book tackles personal struggles that the author faces, such as the stress she has caused her loved ones, the difficulties of only having in-person contact with friends and family during visiting times, and the struggle between prisoners and guards. Kerman also discusses issues that she witnessed other women face in prison, such as leaving behind children and not having sustainable housing or jobs upon their release.  Kerman tells the story of finding a sense of community and support both within the prison system and from the "outside" that guided her throughout her incarceration; something, it seems, she never expected. 

Definitely a must read! Keep a look out for a Netflix series based on this book, coming July 11, 2013.

Below is a Youtube video of Piper Kerman talking about her book: 

MPR Focuses on Children of Incarcerated Parents

This article entitled, "Just a terrible place to go" describes issues children encounter when it comes to visiting parents in prison, such as limited contact time, possible social stigma, and rejection from their very own family.  Prison visits at Stillwater men's facility, as well as Shakopee women's facility (home to Isis Rising!) are discussed in this MPR special, as well as a program available to adolescents that wish to visit their mothers in prison. All children in this article find it hard to dislike their parent for being in prison, because as they say, "how can you hate someone that loves you?"

Click here to read this article

Website on Women in Prison

The website Women and Prison is an extremely informative site for individuals looking to get more information on the difficulties and personal stories of incarcerated women.  This website covers topics from motherhood to poetry on incarceration to activism, among many other current issues.  One frequently read story entitled Pregnancy in Prison: A Personal Story by Kebby Warner discusses the hardships faced before, during, and after Warner's pregnancy while she was incarcerated.  Many incarcerated women who must give up their children after giving birth face the challenges she expresses in this heartfelt narrative. Definitely take the time to peruse this website!

Enlightening documentary about nursery program in women's prison

PURDY is a documentary that follows the lives of five incarcerated mothers who are enrolled in the prison nursery program at the Washington’s Correction Center for women.  This program allows mothers who have just given birth to live with their children in the prison for up to two years.  Parenting classes and an Early Head Start program are also provided to mothers and their children. The goals of such a program are to reduce recidivism in mothers by creating a strong family structure and also to end the intergenerational cycle of incarceration.  Excitingly, according to the documentary, the program does just that!  Mothers enrolled in the nursery program have lower rates of recidivism than those not enrolled. This enlightening, personal, and touching documentary shows the struggles that incarcerated mothers face (from the difficulties of pregnancy during incarceration, to learning how to care for and create a long-lasting bond with their children, to what happens after being released from prison).  For anyone interested in how positive and supportive programs in prisons can benefit mothers and their children, PURDY is definitely the film to watch. (Link for the FREE online documentary available below)

CNN Heroes

This interesting and informative article by CNN discusses a few different programs for children of incarcerated parents.  It addresses problems that many of these children face, including depression, anxiety, and anger, repeating the cycle of crime, embarrassment of the parent’s actions, living in foster care, and the guilt some children feel about loving their “bad” incarcerated parent.  However, programs mentioned in the article offer assistance to children of incarceration by helping to maintain relationships with inmates and creating support groups for these children.  This article provides pertinent insight into the issues that children of incarceration face, and how programs are finally starting help children cope their parents’ incarceration. 

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