• WEATHER ALERT Winter Weather Advisory

Prison Nurseries

January 26, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
A growing number of states are opening nurseries in prisons, for inmates who are mothers.It's a response to an urgent problem in eight states, including California. In the past 15 years, the number of imprisoned women who are mothers of minor children has jumped 122 percent.

At eight months old. Little Passion sleeps soundly through the night and doesn't fuss when ribbons are tied in her few hairs. She appears to be a happy, normal baby, except for the coils of razor wire fence outside her window.

"Do you ever worry this may not be the best environment for a baby to be in?"

"Yes. That is a fear every day," answered Sarah Fulton.

Passion's mother is prisoner 71256 at the Ohio Reformatory for Women. Sarah Fulton was brought here on drug trafficking charges a year ago. She was five months pregnant and petrified the state was going to take her baby at birth and place her in foster care, which is how Sarah grew up.

"I could never make up for it if she was taken. Why? Because my real mom never was able to make up for it with me." But Sarah had an option her mother didn't have. She was able to keep her baby with her behind bars at one of a growing number of prison nurseries for nonviolent offenders who agree to take parenting classes.

Eight states now have programs like this one on Ohio that allow women prisoners to live with their newborns. The idea is to not break the mother/ child bond formed within the first few months of life that is considered crucial to a child's development, and to keep the next generation out of prison.

Studies show children who are separated from their inmate parents wind up with more behavioral problems. "The main reason we do the program in the first place is to save that baby's life. It's not that baby's fault that their mom is in prison and the baby is the one we're trying to protect," said Prison Warden Sheri Duffey.

It also may help the mothers, giving them incentive to stay out of trouble. Thirty percent of women in prison wind up committing another offense. But only eleven percent of the women in this nursery program do.

Still, these programs are controversial. "I'm not in favor of taxpayer's money for these programs. They're getting a privilege that I think is not fair," said Lew Cox with Violent Crime Victim Services.

But Sarah Fulton who is being released in two weeks, said she now has hopes for her daughter's future that she never would have had. "That she grows up to be a beautiful young woman. That she stays out of prison. Cause her mom sure as heck is."

"You're never going back?"

"No," said Sarah laughing.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


abc30 News Links:
Links to other news sections on our website.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Breaking News Alerts:
Click Here to Sign-Up for Breaking News E-Mail Alerts
Receive Breaking News alerts in your email inbox.


Click Here to Sign-Up for Text Message Alerts
Receive Breaking News alerts right on your cell phone.


-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Load Comments