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Baby, Child Psychology, Infant Mental Health, Mothering

Babies Behind Bars

Watching a woman give birth to a baby girl, cuddling her, kissing her. The camera pans down and she has a thick chain and padlock on her ankle. My jaw dropped.  The beautiful inspiring moment of her baby’s entrance into the world where she is placed upon her mothers chest and then the cold harsh reality of a child being born to a mother who is in prison.  A mother who is holding her baby for a maximum of 48 hours then handing her over to authorities to place into foster care.  The woman returns to her cell and continues to serve out her term having contact with her child at scheduled times.  The baby girl settles into the arms of a stranger, yes a giving one at that, but my heart just broke into a tiny millions of pieces.

I cried, I sobbed. Yes I know I have a sensitivity to babies and their feelings at the moment (see here) but this struck a nerve. I wasnt particularly concerned for the mother. Yes I am sorry that she is not with her daughter and yes it would be upsetting for her having to give her daughter up. I’d be a raving lunatic if someone tried to take my children away let alone when they were a baby, a few days old even. My concern was for the precious little soul who had entered the earth only some hours early. Having to deal with birth whether it was smooth or not it is a traumatic experience for any baby to go through. Having to push its little way into this big wide world. Then being separated from the only heartbeat it knew, the only warmth it knew, its lifeline for the past 9 months. How can this not impact upon its psyche?

I am definitely a tiny bit cynical about the birth of babies while women are incarcerated.  Why are they doing it? Is it to reduce their sentence, to show a different aspect to their personality that may reflect ultimately on decision making within the prison, did they just not use contraception, or like in this program where they can be relocated to a mother-baby unit within the prison is it to improve their stay. I dont think we will truly know many of their motivations.  What I am distressed about are the children that are affected by this and their tiny souls that are irreparably tainted by this experience.

Some may have the school of thought that you choose the spirit you come through as and have made a contract to have this experience, others may feel that this child has chosen its parents so again having some unconscious knowledge of this hand of cards being dealt or you may be of the school of thought – these things just happen.

This program was based in a maximum security prison in Indiana, USA. The research they are completing is highlighting positives although no conclusive evidence has been drawn just yet.  The health professionals who advocated for the introduction of this initiative claim that the parent-child attachment and bonding affects positively on the outcome of these women as both mothers and citizens.  They believe it also affects the outcome of these women re-offending and their children partaking in criminal activity.

Would love to know your thoughts?

*** ABC link


About Bringing Spirit Into The Everyday

Modern Suburban Hippie (minus hallucinogens :) ) Vegetarian. Passionate. Love Laughs. Yoga. Chai Lattes. Crystals. Oracle cards. Goddesses. Angels. Spiritual. Perfume Loving. Intuitive Parenting. Breastfeeding Mama. Sport Loving. Opinionated. Scorpio. Psychologist. I have 3 little people who rock my world.


6 thoughts on “Babies Behind Bars

  1. This made me cry too. And not for the mother either. I cannot judge the woman in prison and her motives for pregnancy. Maybe it was planned and she was in prison for standing up for what she believed in. Or, could be a crazy woman. Either way, I do feel for her, but mostly for her child. The child did not ask to be born, nor choose her living situation, even though I believe she in fact chose her parents. She needs her mother. How will she ever feel secure in life if she’s been ripped away from the sounds, warmth, comfort she’s had for the past 9 months? It has to be damaging. It’d be like us being thrown into an unknown country on our own with nothing we know or understand. My heart aches for such babies. Sure, punish the woman with jail time, don’t punish an innocent baby who needs its mother more than anything at such a vulnerable stage of their development. On the other hand, prison… Hmm not the most positive environment to begin life… Women should have to apply to become mothers, do a test etc. Not everyone can get a drivers licence, but (nearly) anyone can become a mother. No police check required. This saddens me too, and sends me on another tangent, why is it that some good, stable, honest, loving women who desperately want a baby battle with fertility issues, yet ppl on drugs, in prison even, can fall pregnant at the drop of a hat by accident nonetheless. Right, must stop now or I could go on and on

    Posted by Dani | May 5, 2011, 2:30 pm
  2. I watched this with my 3 month old on my lap. It was heartbreaking to see the mums and babies separated.
    I did think that the mums keeping their babies seemed like a positive scenario. It is definitely an environment with lots of support, no drugs or alcohol or domestic violence. What I wonder about is how these mums and bubs transition back into their ordinary lives?? Are they able to carry the positives back into the outside world?
    When I read your post it reminded me of a doco called Broken Child (narrated by Susan Sarandon) that talked about these issues. One of the stories was about a man who had been born in jail and was going to die in jail of AIDS. So so sad. And it makes me so grateful that these are not circumstances I have to face.

    Posted by Mumintheburbs | May 6, 2011, 12:33 pm
    • Yes I think it is a little bit closer to the core when the pregnancy and labour has been recent. That story about that man does sound so sad. He begins and ends in the same place. In some ways that is probably comforting for him. Thanks for sharing

      Posted by 3precocious3lotus3 | May 18, 2011, 2:37 am
  3. My heart breaks for these people, especially the babies.

    Posted by bronnie | May 15, 2011, 8:21 pm

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