By Amy Dworsky, Colleen Schlecht, Gina Fedock, et al., Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, March 2020
The dramatic increase in the number of women in state and federal prisons in recent decades has led to calls for gender-responsive policies and practices that address the needs and circumstances of incarcerated women and recognize the central role that motherhood plays in many incarcerated women’s lives. This brief describes the results of a project undertaken by researchers from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration to inform the development and implementation of policies and practices that address the needs of incarcerated mothers in Illinois and reduce the impact of incarceration on their children. The study highlights ways in which incarceration creates barriers to parenting and limits contact between incarcerated mothers and their children. It also draws attention to programs across the country that are working to address those barriers and mitigate the negative impacts of incarceration on both mothers and their children.
What We Did
Researchers interviewed a sample of 42 incarcerated mothers at Logan Correctional Center in Illinois to learn about the experiences of being a parent while in prison; conducted an environmental scan to identify programs that are addressing the needs of incarcerated mothers and children across the country; and interviewed program administrators, other researchers, and advocates to learn more about how the needs of incarcerated mothers and their children are being addressed and the barriers to addressing those needs.