Article Analysis Essay: Mothering Behind Bars

Published: 2023-10-31
Article Analysis Essay: Mothering Behind Bars
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Judicial system Pregnancy Criminal justice
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1230 words
11 min read


Currently, the number of women behind bars has scaled up than at any other point in the United States. This rampant incarceration brings along a devastating effect on families since most of the incarcerated women are mothers. Unfortunately, states and federal policies fail to honor or recognize the distinct needs of pregnant women and incarcerated women together with their children. The paper is premised on reviewing the article, Mothering Behind Bars.

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Summary of the Article Mothering Behind Bars

By 2019, there were already 65,600 incarcerated mothers in state and federal correctional facilities in the United States who have 147,400 children. Before incarceration, 64 percent of those mothers were living with their children. Children with incarcerated mothers are expected to rise as cases of incarcerated mothers rise annually. It gets estimated that about 45 percent of those children live with a grandparent, 37 percent live with the other parent, 11 percent are in foster care, 23 percent live with another relative, and 8 percent live with another caregiver. Moreover, the percentage of pregnant women entering the correctional system is on the rise attracting the attention of correctional administration and policymakers. Prison nursery programs aimed at equipping incarcerated mothers with parental skills and mother-infant bondage emerged in England in the early 19th century but has since been adopted in the U.S (John et al., 2012).

An evidence-based evaluation study was conducted to determine whether the prison nursery program reduces post-prison recidivism. In the recent past, several such studies have been done, but they utilized research designs such as narrative reviews and meta-analysis, which fails to offer room for inference drawings. The study conducted addresses that deficit by reviewing the empirical evidence on the prison nursery program systematically as well as its impact on inmate participant recidivism (Kimberly, LeAnn, & Shaina, 2019). A systematic review approach allows a researcher to analyze the outcomes of all rigorous evaluation studies before concluding that an effective prison nursery program reduces recidivism.

The evidence-based evaluation study utilizes the SMS method to evaluate seven studies of prison nursery programs. SMS method for evaluation consists of a 5-point scale ranging from Level 1(least rigorous) to Level 5 (most rigorous), which classify effectiveness of a program into one of the established four categories, namely: working, not working, promising, and unknown. For a program to be classified as 'working,' it must have a minimum of two Level 3-5 evaluation studies with significant results, and evidence depicts that the program is effective. Conversely, a program may be classified as 'not working' if it has a minimum of two Level 3-5 evaluation studies with irrelevant results, and evidence depicts that the program is ineffective. 'Promising' programs must attain a minimum of one Level 3-5 evaluation study with significant results, and evidence suggests the effectiveness of the program.

The prison nursery programs which were evaluated include MOLD and two NCCW nursery programs at Nebraska Correctional Centre for Women, two Week One's Nursery at Indiana Women's Prison, U.S Prisons nursery programs and Bedford Hills, and Taconic prison nursery Programs. As per the SMS results, 5 of the studies achieved an SMS score of three or greater as they were of sufficient methodological rigor. Tests for statistical significance were not performed by the researchers, but the evidence available points towards a theoretical direction. The evidence-based evaluation study could not classify the prison nursery programs as 'working, not working, or promising.' However, it concluded that the effectiveness of prison nursery programs resulted in a reduction in recidivism classifying it as 'unknown.' As a result of inappropriate statistical tests and weak methodological designs, the study was unable to conclude that effective prison nursery programs lower inmate participant recidivism. Out of the seven evaluated studies, only one had performed a statistical test but failed to include a comparison control group.

The study advocates for the continuation of prison nursery programs. It further suggested that self-esteem and confidence of prison nursery program participants increased, enabling them to effectively parent their children (Kimberly et al., 2019). There is a need to continue utilizing and even expand prison nursery programs because of its overwhelming positive benefits. Also, less serious and violent-free histories of the participants of prison nursery programs are a factor that contributes to lower rates of recidivism during post-prison.

How the Article Related to the Reading Material Prison and Life

The reading material shows how women's prisons are fewer compared to men's prisons and, consequently, receives fewer money allocations. For that reason, the majority of the women prisons are unable to offer programs such as prison nursery programs discussed in the article to incarcerated mothers. Also, as per the reading material, problems such as drug addiction, difficulties that come with motherhood in prison, sexual abuse, unemployment, and child abuse, among others, have made it difficult to utilize and expand prison nursery programs to incarcerated mothers (Travis, 2018). Since the early 19th century to date, the number of women being sentenced to prisons has been on a tremendous rise, making women not be overlooked anymore. For that reason, various states have been scrambling to erect new women prisons, address unique issues associated with women, and evaluate various women prison programs such as prison nursery programs for incarcerated mothers as revealed by the reading material.

Both the article and the reading material ascertain that two-thirds of incarcerated women are mothers of small children. Those mothers were the primary caretakers of those children before incarceration, and they expect to remain custodians of those children even after serving their sentences. Only 11 percent of those children enter foster care. The majority of incarcerated mothers fear intervention of state protection agencies because they fear they may lose custody of their children even after completing their sentences. For that reason, the majority of those children end up in informal zones, such as relative care. Just like in the article, the reading material also reiterates that the number of women who are pregnant during admission to the correctional system continues to rise, and less has been considered to address their needs.

The reading material reveals that meta-analyses have not been done on incarcerated mother programs to determine the effectiveness of such programs. So far, the most offered program in women prisons is drug treatment at 54.9 percent, followed by parenting skills at 40.3 percent, life skills at 40 percent, relationship information at 30.6 percent, and lastly, basic education at 29 percent. Those programs are not aimed at reducing recidivism as revealed by the reading material, which is contrary to the article, which links prison programs with a reduction in recidivism. As per the reading material, those women prison programs are geared towards addressing a variety of issues such as poverty, marital discord, among others.


In summary, prison nursery programs recognize or honor the distinct needs of incarcerated mothers. As per the article, when prison nursery programs in women prisons are effectively implemented, reduction in rates of recidivism are realized. The reading material, however, asserts that besides a decrease in recidivism benefit, there are other benefits associated with programs for incarcerated mothers.


John, T. W. et al. (2012). Corrections: Exploring Crime, Punishment, and Justice in America. 3rd Edition.

Kimberly D. D, LeAnn N. C, & Shaina M. M (2019). Mothering Behind Bars: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Prison Nursery Programs on Recidivism Reduction.

Travis, C. P. (2018). Addicted to Incarceration: Corrections Policy and the Politics of Misinformation in the United States. 2nd Edition.

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