Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New Mothers Bring Babies to Prison

The Illinois Department of Corrections has an interesting program for incarcerated new mothers. The new mothers are permitted to have their child live with them behind the prison walls. The newborns are not living in a cell wearing little orange jumpers.

According to the Bloomington Pantagraph, the infants live with their mothers on a unit on which each mother has her own room, with access to large day rooms decorated with colorful murals and outdoor patios. Michael Randle, director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, commended the Moms and Babies Program, noting it is important that infants bond with their mothers during the first 18 months of their lives. Randle noted that the living unit resembled a day care center one might find outside prison.

Randle told the Pantagraph, "Of the 25 offenders that have gone through this program, none, zero, have returned to this prison." Twenty-five is certainly a small sample, but the recidivism rate for parolees is about 66-percent.

Susan Creek, the coordinator of Moms and Babies, said the large periods of time the women spend with their children are beneficial to both. Creek said it is especially important the mothers are bonding with their babies in a nurturing environment, away from the negative influences they might have on the outside.

Creek told the Pantagraph, "This program is about the well-being of the child first." She added that the children are innocent. "Let's not punish the child because the mother made a mistake."

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