Early Childhood

New Research Suggests Prison Nurseries Better for Moms, Babies

By Lillian Mongeau — April 15, 2016 1 min read

In a stunningly written feature for The Atlantic, Sarah Yager takes readers through the long history and current research on children born behind bars and their mothers.

With an 800 percent increase in female prisoners in this country since 1970, the question of what to do with their babies has become increasingly urgent. One in 25 incarcerated women are pregnant when they enter prison, according to Yager’s reporting. Most have their child taken away within hours of the baby’s birth—a heartwrenching scene of such a parting was dramatized in the first season of “Orange is the New Black,” the Netflix series about a women’s prison. While some children have fathers or other relatives who can care for them, many end up in the foster care system.

The idea of keeping babies with their imprisoned mothers is not new, as Yager details in her piece, but it is gaining increased acceptance now that research has begun to come out showing that women who get to raise their babies on the inside for a time have lower recidivism rates. There is also emerging evidence that the babies themselves do better even as they age in the often-tumultous, real world after prison.

Yager spotlights a specific prisoner’s case, dives deeply into the research and the history of prison nurseries and explores the ramifications for the future if such programs become commonplace.

I don’t usually write a post that just points you to another story, but in this case, I highly urge you to take the time to read “Prison Born.” It’s well worth your time.

Photo: Thumbnail of image by Wayne Lawrence for The Atlantic.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.