Monday, 8 August 2011

Babies behind Bars.

The other week I watched the two ITV documentaries from within an American Prison currently running a nursery scheme. These are my reflections of the scheme.

Babies Behind Bars. ITV documentary first aired on the 27th June 2011. May still be available to watch in the UK on the ITVplayer.

According to the documentary there is a soaring number of women entering US prisons (the number is up by 400%) and there are now more women offenders in the US than in any other country.

Within US prisons women offenders who give birth whilst behind bars are required to have their baby/babies removed from the establishment after 24hours of birth. HOWEVER the Indiana Womens Prison has introduced a new scheme which lets 10 babies and their mothers stay in a special nursery wing -but with around 60 women giving birth each year in the establishment this makes competition strong.

The Nursery is named the "Wee Ones Nursery" and was opened in 2007 and is separated and protected from other offenders and is a more relaxed area. Its aims are to allow mothers to bond with their newborns, teach effective mothering skills, build skills in being effective members of society and to reduce the rates of re-offending and re-incarceration. The nursery also offers the opportunity for 4 inmates not resident on the wing to gain training in and work as 'nannies' to the resident babies.

Some quotes which I took from the documentary show the positive effects which the scheme is having on the women involved:
"I'm glad I'm here because I don't want to miss any time with my child. They're too precious and I understand this now."
"It's taught me how to live up to my responsibilities."
"I want to be a good mom and a good example. Its time I'm able to teach her good habits, right from wrong you know. I don't want her to think the things I did were right."

Evidence from the scheme shows that the women on the nursery wing have a 20% lower re-offending rate compared to other women offenders. Also the scheme has helped the women involved improve their motivation for creating positive futures.

Whilst on my prison placement it became apparent to me that the men who had maintained strong links and relationships with their children showed more motivation to become more effective member of society and to begin building a more positive lifestyle. In an article published in the Prison Service Journal (May 2008) it talks about how fatherhood is regarded as a key motivation for change and fathers who maintain contact with their families are up to six times less likely to re-offend. I feel that this would be the same for, if not more so, with mothers.

As OTs we look at the importance of individuals having roles, responsibilities and meaningful and purposeful occupations - I feel that this is an important issue to consider and look into, in particular if either currently working in forensic environments or wanting to follow this clinical area of practice as It is such a crucial part of a parents life and an area which would affect both the future of the parent and also their child/children in forming effective and positive futures.

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