Many imprisoned women are mothers and are usually the primary or sole provider for their children. When a mother is imprisoned, frequently the father does not continue to care for his children, resulting in large numbers of children being institutionalized.
In a women’s prison, very young children can stay with their mother in prison until they are 2 years old, sometimes in special facilities like mother and baby units. Both options, allowing children to live with their mothers in prison or separating them, create difficult dilemmas.
Separation of mother and child can cause long-term developmental and emotional harm for the child and can affect the mother’s physical and mental health. At the same time the prison environment is far from an ideal environment for a child to be raised. It is rare that decisions are made in the best interests of the child.
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