A dozen babies live at the Ohio Reformatory for Women, says National Public Radio. Too young to say “crime,” they are in a program that enables inmate mothers to raise children in their cells. The program is one of many designed to meet the needs of mothers locked up. Women are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. prison population. At the Ohio Reformatory, about 75 percent of the 2,300 inmates are mothers.
Only a handful of U.S. prisons offer an in-house nursery like the one at the quickly expanding Ohio complex, about 30 miles from Columbus. Only nonviolent offenders who arrive at the prison pregnant or with infants and are serving relatively short sentences can qualify. The Achieving Baby Care Success program began in 2001. The 12 mothers currently participating live in a special wing of the prison. The babies sleep in identical cribs in their mothers’ cells. Between prison roll calls, mothers take their children to the in-house nursery for scheduled activities. The goal, says warden Sheri Duffey, is to reduce recidivism and keep the next generation out of prison. Although research is limited, a small study in Nebraska several years ago suggested that prison nurseries may make mothers less likely to commit another crime and end up back behind bars.