Sentencing/Post Conviction

Imprisoned mothers should be allowed to spend six months with newborns, report says

  • Print.

Imprisoned mothers should be allowed to live with their newborn babies for at least six months, according to a report released on Friday regarding incarcerated Washington, D.C., women.

Incarcerated women from the District have significant problems maintaining contact with their children, according to the report (PDF) by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and the Covington & Burling law firm. The report is the fourth in a series that address issues affecting the justice system in Washington, D.C., according to a press release.

Under a unique statutory scheme, women sentenced to prison for felonies in Washington, D.C., superior court are housed in federal prisons. Some are far from the District, making it difficult for the women to stay in touch with their families.

The report recommends housing D.C. women in federal prisons closer to home, and says federal prison officials should extend to at least six months the time a mother may live with her new baby. The report also recommends that local officials introduce a program to allow mothers at the local Correctional Treatment Facility to live with their newborns at a residential facility for at least six months.

Women who give birth at the Correctional Treatment Facility are separated from their child almost immediately—the same treatment given to most incarcerated mothers across the United States, the report says. Only nine states have prison nursery programs or have plans to create them. They are California, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Nebraska, New York, South Dakota, Washington and West Virginia.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons operates residential parenting programs in five states—Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Texas and West Virginia—for women who want to spend time with babies after birth. The Bureau of Prisons also partners with Washington state to house qualified mothers with newborns for up to 30 months.

The report cites research showing that prison nursery programs increase attachment between mother and child, and decrease recidivism rates.

The report also addresses the need for increased access to substance abuse and mental health treatment, educational opportunities and job training programs.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.