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Analysis of Mothers in the Federal Prison System

NCJ Number
Corrections Compenndium Volume: 24 Issue: 12 Dated: December 1999 Pages: 4-6
Pamela R. Pennix
Date Published
3 pages
Interviews of 100 inmate mothers in the Federal Reformatory for Women in Alderson, W.V., gathered qualitative and quantitative data to explore historical trends in the level of care, range of offenses, and programs available for mothers in the Federal prison system.
Forty-one of the participants were first incarcerated in the 1990's, 38 in the 1980's, and 21 in the 1970's. The participants included 65 black women, 19 white women, 1 Native American Indian woman, 12 Mexican-American women, one Italian woman, one Hispanic woman, and one woman of another ethnicity. All 100 mothers reported that being separated from their children caused them to feel sadness, anger, depression, stress, shame, guilt, emotional turmoil, and enforced isolation and rejection. Their biggest fear was that their children would not understand why they were incarcerated. The mothers' main concerns were the safety and health of their children. The mothers felt that parent-child bonding, parenting skills, and related matters were priorities of the Alderson staff in planning for incarcerated mothers. Alderson provides Linking Inmate Families Together (LIFT) program, which consists of parenting education, a place for inmate mothers to visit with their children, and social services to deal with child custody and children's problems. Alderson also provides education, job training, drug treatment, group therapy, and skills training. The inmate mothers who had been in Alderson for a period of time reported that programs had improved and become more technical in nature. Findings indicated the need for practitioners with training to work with diverse populations and with a balance of both criminal justice and social work expertise. Additional program and research recommendations and 16 references