Examining The Women Sanctioned In Prison Criminology Essay

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The number of incarcerated women sanctioned to United States prisons has increased dramatically since 1980. In 1990, there were approximately 600,000 women in U.S. correctional systems including, prison, and jails on probation or parole, in 2001 the numbers had increased to more than one million women (Covington & Bloom, 2003). The incarceration rate for women has doubled the men's incarceration rate since 1980 (Covington & Bloom, 2003). The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in 2002, the number of women in federal and state prisons have increased almost eight times, from 12,300 to 93,031. The majority of the women in U.S. prisons have committed non-violent crimes, consisting of mainly drug and property offenses. The increase in women imprisonment rates can be attributed to the war on drugs policies, stricter mandatory sentencing laws, and punitive enforcement responses to convoluted social issues (Covington & Bloom, 2003).

Incarceration directly affects women and their children because the mother's are not physically there to rear their children, leaving the responsibility to relatives or the child welfare system. As a result, mothers who are in prison face problems maintaining meaningful relationships with their children. This is a compelling problem because women in prison are responsible for 1.5 million dependent children, and 89% are under the age of twelve (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000). Maternal incarceration has damaging affects on children lives.

According to Morton and Williams (1998), 25% of women admitted to prison are pregnant or have recently delivered. The study also reported 25% of incarcerated women's children live with their fathers, compared to 90% of incarcerated men's children who live with the child's mother. Morton and Williams (1998) found 65% of children with mothers in prison live with their grandmothers and 10% are in foster care. More than 50% of incarcerated women with children under 18 years old never have visits from their children (Morton & Williams, 1998). Maternal incarceration hinders existing relationships between mothers and their children. The children of incarcerated mothers are victims of their mothers' behaviors. Strengthening families should be the primary concern for agencies dealing with female inmates who have children. The social work profession along with the child welfare system promotes family preservation and stability; if intervention is not implemented the vicious cycle of criminal offending may continue.

Literature Review

In the past two decades with the increase of women's imprisonment rates partially due to mandatory minimum sentences and stricter sanctions due to the war on drugs, children of these women are being greatly affected emotionally and psychologically. The quality of the mother-child relationship shapes future relationships the child will develop. It is essential for children to have positive interactions during infancy and adolescence to develop healthy social relationships. The children are at risk of having their own emotional, behavioral and social problems if early positive maternal bonds and attachments are not created (Mennen & O'Keefe, 2005).

Although children adapt to their environments for survival, their strategies are not always best for their development. Bowlby's attachment theory explains the importance of building a relationship between the caregiver and child (Mennen & O'Keefe, 2005). Bowlby and Ainsworth identified four phases of attachment including, secure, anxious, avoidant and disorganized. Bowlby and Ainsworth found, attachment between the mother and child depends on the mother's emotional and physical response to the child. Attachment is important because it can create insecurities in the child and hinder psychosocial development. In addition, attachment is also essential in that social skills are learned; the child is able to interact with others in future relationships with positive and healthy dynamics.

Separation during imprisonment is considered to be most harmful for both the mother and child (Covington & Bloom, 2003). In most cases, the reason women do not receive visits from their children, is due to the geographical distance of the prison from urban areas. Most often women's facilities are located in rural areas that are inaccessible to public transportation. The mother's relationship with her child is harder to preserve, making transition back home more difficult. Consequently, forced separation between the mother and her child can result in the lost of parental rights. The 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), mandated termination of parental rights once the child has been in foster care for longer than fifteen months or more of the preceding twenty-two months (Jacobs, 2001). The shift of the correctional system from rehabilitation to more punitive motives has made women's contact with their children more difficult. However, some correctional facilities have addressed the concerns of the inmates. Some facilities have implemented visiting programs, parenting and child development classes and family furlough programs (Casey-Acevedo & Bakken, 2002). These programs allow families to keep ties and remain connected. Some research has shown family visitations increase the woman's chances of success on parole (Casey-Acevedo & Bakken, 2002).

Once the mother is released from prison she faces other adversities which may hinder her success, and increase chances of recidivism. When re-entering into society, she must comply with conditions of parole, find housing, access health care, obtain secure and safe housing free from illegal substances and find employment. These extra burdens on the mothers make it hard when no family support was given while incarcerated.

Imprisonment breaks the family structure and allows for attachment and separation disorders to occur. Data has shown that children of incarcerated parents are up to six times more likely than children of parents not involved in the criminal justice system to be incarcerated at some time in their life (Luke, 2002). This population is less likely to succeed in school, however is more likely to follow in their parents footsteps and abuse drugs and become involved in gangs. It is imperative that the cycle be broken for the betterment of the mother, child, and society. Children who have mothers in prison are more apt to following their footsteps if proper interventions are not in place.

The Purpose of the project

The purpose of this project is to develop a prison nursery program, to strengthen relationships between mothers in prison and their infant children, at California Institution for Women, a state prison for women. In addition, short term objectives include, increasing maternal knowledge about prenatal health, infant health and development, family development and to increase the mother's life skills. The grant will be written in conjunction with the Center for Children with Incarcerated Parents (CCIP).

Program Goal

The goal of the program is to sustain, healthy mother-child reunification, to sustain healthy mother-child relationships, and infant, child and mother well-being. In addition, long term goals of the program are to reduce the female prison population in California and improve public safety. The program gives mothers a second chance at nurturing their children and form attachments and bonds that they may not have had a chance to do, if the child was under jurisdiction of the child welfare system.


Target Population

The two targeted populations for the proposed program are pregnant inmates and their unborn babies. The first targeted population for the proposed program is the infants who have mothers in prison, more specifically mothers imprisoned at California Institution for Women (CIW). The Center for Children of Incarcerated Parents reported in 2004, children of female prisoners in California are estimated at 17,880. As of August of 2000, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported, state and federal prisons incarcerated approximately 721,500 parents of minor children. It is also estimated that about 46% of parents lived with their child prior to their sentence.

The second targeted population for this program is pregnant women who have been sentenced to California Institution for Women (CIW) in Corona, California. Currently the correctional facility houses over 2,000 women inmates, across 120 acres of land. The primary mission of California Institution for Women is to provide the women with a safe and secure environment, while giving them the opportunity to participate in many enriching activities, including academic and vocational education, substance abuse treatment, and forestry/camp training. CIW also offers an array of self-help groups and community betterment projects for example, "Girls Scouts Beyond Bars", Corrections Victim Awareness and clothing manufacturing. The goal of CIW is to meet the special needs of the women offenders, while providing quality care.

Currently the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has jurisdiction over 312,271 offenders, including 11,423 women offenders (CDCR, 2006). Females account for 7% of California's inmate population. Of the 11,423 women inmates approximately 8,000 are mothers (CCIP, 2004 and CDCR, 2006). Across the state the majority of offenses include person (50%), property (21%) and drug related offenses (21%) (CDCR, 2006). Demographics of the inmates include being poorly educated and having an average reading level of seventh grade. They are also disproportionately ethnic minorities, Latino/Hispanic offenders make up 37% of the total population, Black/African American compose of 29% and White/Caucasian include 28% of CDCR inmate population (CDCR, 2006).

Funding Source Identification and Selection Strategies

Funding sources will be researched from several databases including foundation directories, web sources, for example www.grants.gov, and the Grantmanship Center in Los Angeles. In addition, funding sources will also be explored through the Long Beach Non-Profit Partnership, the Foundation Center and the search engine at the Non-Profit Resource Library in Los Angeles as well. Potential funding sources may be private or public funders, matching specific needs of the proposed program.

Needs Assessments

Approximately 5-6% of women admitted to jail or state prisons are pregnant (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1999). It is estimated, that there were 180 pregnant women among 2000 female inmates at the California Institution for Women and 35 pregnant women among 50 women inmates located in CDCR mother-child correctional facilities in Los Angeles County (CDCR, 2005). It is viewed that incarceration of pregnant women causes stress upon the mother and unborn child. Incarceration of pregnant women may psychologically affect the women due to the environmental restrictions and the separation from their family and many concerns regarding the placement of their newborns (Martin, Haesook, Kupper, Meyer, & Hays, 1997).

Budget Guidelines

Currently, California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has proposed to fund $300,000 per fiscal year for basic staff for the nursery. However, there is no proposed funding for educational materials, or specialized human services positions within the program. The program intends to employ full-time child care workers, psychotherapists and infant mental health specialists. Operational costs have not been funded either for example; car seats, highchairs, breast pumps or toys for the infants. It is proposed that a standardized line-item budgeting system format will be used to structure the budget. Within the budget, definitions and terms will be explained, all revenues and expenses will be identified, and finally the budget will have set balance guidelines. The potential budget for the proposed program to employ human services workers is estimated between $150,000 to 200,000 per fiscal year. In addition, the operational costs are estimated between, $50,000 to $75,000 per fiscal year.

Cross Cultural Relevance

There are a disproportionate number of ethnic minority children who have mothers in prison. It is estimated, African American children are nine times more likely than white children to have a parent in prison (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000). Hispanic children are three times more likely to have a parent in prison, compared to white children (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000). In addition, ethnic minorities with children are also overrepresented in U.S. and Federal prisons, African American parents represent the largest ethnic group (49%), White parents comprise 29% and Hispanic parents equal 19% (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000).

The proposed program will address the multi-ethnic population, in that the majority of the women sentenced to California prisons are women of color. Therefore, the nursery program which allows the mothers to form secure relationships with their children will include having the two most represented ethnic groups (Black/African Americans and Hispanic/Latino) participate in the program. However the nursery program is not limited only to Black/African Americans and Hispanic/Latino women.

Social Work Relevance

Because the majority of incarcerated women's children are removed from their care, the child welfare system sometimes is involved in the children's lives. Approximately 10% of mothers in state prisons report having a child in the foster care system (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000). Unlike parents who are not in prison, mother's who are incarcerated have great difficulty advocating for themselves due to their circumstances. Family Reunification is a challenge for the child welfare system and the family due to the forced separation. Therefore, mothers in prison have a greater risk of loosing their parental rights. In addition, studies have also found that incarcerated mothers and their children are less likely to reunify, due to strict timelines. Unfortunately, not only are children of incarcerated mother's at risk of entering the child welfare system, they also are at risk of living in low income communities where resources and services are limited.

As studied conducted by Smith and Elstein (1994) found, more than half of child protective services workers acknowledged the increase in requests to place children with arrested parents. The same studied also reported 80% of the agencies had no specific policies to respond to the requests (Smith & Elstein, 1994). Both the criminal justice and child welfare systems need to work collaboratively, to effectively serve the families involved. Once child welfare workers and criminal justice officials implement a plan of action, incarcerated parents may decrease the possibility of re-offending and increase the chance of reunifying with their children (Smith & Elstein, 1994).