Women in Prisons are often Women in Shadow

Archive for July, 2014

Seven Days in Solitary [7/27/14]

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What Happens to Babies Born in Jail?

What Happens to Babies Born in Jail?

They don’t all grow up to star on ‘Gossip Girl.’

May 29, 2012

Originally from Baltimore, Oliver lives and writes on a quiet, tree-lined street in Brooklyn.

Gossip Girl actress Leighton Meester’s success must have been completely unimaginable to her parents when she was born. The Gossip Girl’s mother, Connie Meester, probably had lesser outcomes in mind when she gave birth to Leighton while beginning a 10-year sentence at a federal prison in Texas for drug smuggling.

Despite the fact that nearly two-thirds of women in U.S. prisons are mothers, there is still no national policy that dictates what should happen to the more than 2,000 children that are born behind bars each year.

Where do these babies go? Up until the 1950s, prison nurseries were the norm in most states; so most were raised behind bars by their mothers. Then came an explosion in the prison population—between 1977 and 2007, the number of women in prison increased by 832 percent—leaving states unable to afford the prohibitive $24,000 cost of raising a baby in jail. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of incarcerated mothers are now forced to either give up their child to foster care or place the kids with relatives.

Recently, a handful of states have begun experimenting with nursery programs and community-based residential parenting programs. Competition for spots is fierce, and only mothers who are serving short sentences for non-violent crimes are eligible. While the length of stay varies from state to state (at the South Dakota Women’s Prison babies are only allowed to stay for 30 days, while at the Washington Correctional Center it’s three years), the results have been unanimously positive: one survey showed that 95 percent of mothers felt they had a stronger bond after the program, and all agreed that other states should adopt similar programs.

The evidence supporting mothers raising their children in jail is extensive. Increasingly, studies are showing that the first two years of a baby’s life are critical for the mother-child bond, and babies bereft of that bond are more likely to display troubled behavior later on. In addition, women who are allowed to raise their children in jail are much less likely to return to crime. One study of the Nebraska Correctional Center found that 33 percent of women who had been separated from their children ended up back in jail, versus just 9 percent of women who were allowed to raise their children.

Across the world, many countries seem to agree that a baby’s place is with its mother. In Sweden, babies can be accommodated for up to a year (the average stay is three months). In most European countries, mothers are allowed to keep their infants through weaning. Prisons in India are required to offer nurseries and day care for mothers and their children. In Chile, jail-born children begin taking state-run educational programs at six months of age. In Mexico, children are required to stay with their mothers until they’re 6 years old, and have the freedom to leave on weekends and holidays.

For those who balk at the thought of infants being raised behind bars, Germany represents a common sense compromise. There, qualified mothers are allowed to leave prison every morning to see their children off to school, spending the day doing housework and preparing meals for their children. At the end of the day, the women return to the jail to sleep. Their waking hours are spent fostering a stable, nurturing environment for the next generation, one that won’t have to remember a childhood spent behind bars.

http://www.takepart.com/article/2012/05/28/what-happens-babies-born-jail


Grandmother Receives Life In Prison For First-Time Drug Offense


Marissa Alexander denied ‘stand your ground’ hearing

News4JAX 266x99 (Updated)

Marissa Alexander denied ‘stand your ground’ hearing

Judge: ‘New evidence’ isn’t really new

Author: Marques White, Weekend morning anchor, reporter, mwhite@wjxt.com
Adrienne Moore, Weekend anchor, reporter, amoore@wjxt.com
Published On: Jul 21 2014 09:46:51 AM EDT   Updated On: Jul 21 2014 09:15:24 PM EDT
Unexpected turn for Marissa Alexander

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A motion for a second “stand your ground” hearing for Marissa Alexander has been denied, in a ruling made Friday by Judge James Daniel.

Alexander’s new defense lawyers argued they had new evidence to present, including a recanting of statements made by the son of Alexander’s estranged husband, the night she fired a shot into the wall next to where he was standing with both sons…

Read more:


Federal report finds Alabama prison ‘toxic,’ female inmates abused

Federal report finds Alabama prison ‘toxic,’ female inmates abused

By Bill Mears, CNN

January 23, 2014 — Updated 1441 GMT (2241 HKT)http://edition.cnn.com/2014/01/22/us/alabama-prison-conditions/index.html

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
Justice Department issues scathing report on Tutwiler Prison
Says corrections agency has violated women’s constitutional rights
Corrections chief says that DOJ findings are “off the mark”

(CNN) — The Justice Department concluded in a blistering report on Wednesday that female inmates at one Alabama prison live in a toxic environment marked by sex abuse and harassment by corrections staff.

The Department’s Civil Rights Division said the Alabama Department of Corrections has repeatedly violated the women’s constitutional rights at the Julia Tutwiler Prison.

The state was urged to take immediate remedial steps, but there was no indication the federal government was prepared to take any formal legal action.

“Our investigation has revealed serious systemic operational deficiencies at Tutwiler that have exposed women prisoners to harm and serious risk of harm from staff-on-prisoner sexual abuse and sexual harassment,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels.

“These problems have been festering for years, and are well known to Alabama prison officials. Remedying these deficiencies is critical to ensuring constitutionally protected treatment of women prisoners at Tutwiler and will promote public safety,” she said.

In a letter to Gov. Robert Bentley, federal officials said the inmates “universally fear for their safety” and “live in a sexualized environment with repeated and open sexual behavior.”

The alleged violations included “strip shows” and “cross-gender viewing” of female prisoners as they undressed in front of correction staff.

The Justice Department also said female inmates at the facility in Wetumpka, north of the capital of Montgomery, had “inadequate conditions” of confinement and medical and mental health care.

Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas said the findings were “off the mark” and that his agency is cooperating with the Justice Department.

“We have been proactive from the beginning,” Thomas said. “We have never downplayed the significant and serious nature of these allegations. I do not, however, agree that Tutwiler is operating in a deliberately indifferent or unconstitutional manner.”

Thomas said that his agency will “continue our efforts to implement changes and recommendations with the goal of improving prison conditions and avoiding potential contested litigation.” ….read more …

Thomas said the letter was based on a federal oversight visit from last year, noting improvements have been made.

The state said it was informed in March of last year that the Justice Department was investigating the prison as a civil rights matter.

“The department stands ready to work with the state of Alabama on solving the problems at Tutwiler,” said U.S. Attorney George L. Beck Jr. for the Middle District of Alabama. “The report has identified a very serious and troubling situation at the facility. Action needs to be taken immediately.”

Federal officials said Thomas and his staff have cooperated and have shown “receptivity to concerns raised.”