After her release from prison Sherry Swanson, a heroin addict, shows up at the halfway house, reports to her parole officer, and reaches out to her brother and sister-in-law who have been caring for her young daughter. Swanson, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, is the protagonist of “Sherrybaby,” a film that opened this month, says Women’s eNews. While she is fictional, her story is shared by women who, after release from prison, face a second round of punishment when they have difficulties regaining custody of their children.
The number of women in prison has increased almost nine-fold over the last 30 years, says Ann Jacobs of the New York City-based Women’s Prison Association. She says most are incarcerated for nonviolent property and drug crimes; 80 percent have, on average, 2.4 children, with 10 percent of their children placed in foster care. Women’s eNews describes the significant obstacles facing female prisoners in finding enough help to regain child custody. One of several programs cited is Indiana’s Family Preservation, which offers incarcerated women classes on parenting, overcoming substance abuse, and high school equivalency degrees, and college and trade courses.