Children and Maternal Incarceration Essay

Children and Maternal Incarceration Essay

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Over 150,000 children in the United States have been separated from their mothers because of incarceration. These children face an extremely difficult situation. As the population of female inmates in jails and prisons continues to increase, protections will need to be put in place to preserve the mother-child bond during their sentence and in the process of release. Contact and visitation between mother and child can decrease the negative emotional, social and developmental effects that are caused by maternal incarceration. These measures will improve the children’s well being and create adults who are less likely to repeat their parents’ mistakes.
Maternal incarceration makes up just ten percent of all parental incarceration in America (Wright and Seymour 9). Although they are smaller in number, studies have shown that children whose mothers are serving time in jail or prison are more severely affected than children whose fathers are incarcerated (Parke and Clarke-Stewart 2). Mothers were most likely their children’s primary guardian and caregiver before their sentence, while many fathers in prison were not present in their children’s lives even before they were arrested(Parke and Clarke-Stewart 2). The loss of a father that they never knew does not seem to disrupt a child’s life as much as the loss of a mother does.
As a result of the small number of mothers in jail or prison, the stigma surrounding these women and their families is extremely negative (Wright and Seymour 12). The stigma is not only placed on the mothers themselves, but almost always extended to their children. This can lead to children keeping their situation a secret from friends, teachers and peers out of fear and insecurity. In a study done with the Bi...

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the Experiences and Needs of Children of Incarcerated Parents. Views from Mentors."
Urban Institute Justice Policy Center, Feb. 2008. Web. 22 Nov. 2013.

"Mothers, Infants, and Imprisonment. A National Look at Prison Nurseries and Community-Based
Alternatives." Women's Prison Association Institute on Women and Criminal Justice, May
2009. Web. 22 Nov. 2013.

Parke, Ross D., and K. Alison Clarke-Stewart. "Effects of Parental Incarceration on Young
Children." N.p., Dec. 2001. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.

Ross, Timothy, Ajay Khashu, and Mark Wamsley. "Hard Data on Hard Times: An Empirical Analysis of Maternal Incarceration, Foster Care, and Visitation." Vera Institute of Justice, Aug. 2004. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

Wright, Lois E., and Cynthia B. Seymour. "Effects of Parental Incarceration on Children and
Families." Michigan Family Impact Seminar, n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.

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