Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

In Ohio, Mothers Care for Infant Children

In Ohio, Inmate Mothers Care For Babies In Prison

Listen Now [8 min 56 sec] add to playlist

Who's Behind Bars?

This three-part series examines who makes up the quickly expanding U.S. prison population. The chart below offers a sampling of incarceration rates.

Courtesy of The Pew Center on the States' Public Safety Performance Project, "One in 100: Behind Bars in America, 2008."
Ohio Reformatory inmate Kristin Kennedy keeps photographs of her children in her cell. Her youngest child, an infant, lives with her at the prison.

Morning Edition, August 13, 2008 · First in a three-part series.

At the Ohio Reformatory for Women, a dozen babies are spending time behind bars. Too young to say the word "crime," they are participants in a program that enables inmate mothers to raise their children in their cells.

The program is one of many across the country designed to meet the unique needs of mothers who are locked up. Women are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. prison population. At the Ohio Reformatory, the warden estimates that 75 percent of the 2,300 inmates housed there are mothers.

Only a handful of U.S. prisons offer an in-house nursery program like the one at the quickly expanding Ohio complex, located about 30 miles from Columbus. Only nonviolent offenders who arrive at the prison pregnant or with infants and are serving relatively short sentences can qualify.

The Achieving Baby Care Success program began in June 2001. The 12 mothers currently participating live in a special wing of the prison. The babies sleep in identical cribs in their mothers' cells. Between prison roll calls, mothers take their children to the in-house nursery for scheduled activities.

The ultimate goal, says warden Sheri Duffey, is to reduce recidivism and keep the next generation out of prison.

The program "maintains that bond that the mother and child has," Duffey says. Although research is limited, a small study in Nebraska several years ago suggested that prison nurseries may make mothers less likely to commit another crime and end up back behind bars.

At the colorful prison nursery, Kristin Kennedy, a 28-year-old inmate from Zanesville, Ohio, awaits the public librarian's arrival for story-time. Kennedy was pregnant with her third child on the day she reported to prison.