Newsweek visits the maternity wing of the Indiana Women’s Prison, down a bright yellow cinder-block hallway adorned with stenciled images of stars and crescent moons. There are cells on both sides of the hallway. Each has a varnished crib that was made in woodworking class. Protective collars are fitted to the cell doors–there to prevent the steel from slamming on little fingers. A prison may not seem like the best place to raise infants. But researchers are finding that it’s better than the alternative.
Joseph Carlson, a University of Nebraska at Kearney professor who recently completed a 10-year study, says such programs are “a win-win situation” for mothers and babies–and reduce crime by helping inmates to reform. Carlson also believes such programs can help “stop the generational cycle” in which children of inmates become criminals themselves. The nursery at the Indiana prison was opened a year ago. Since then, about 20 infants have joined an inmate population of more than 400. There is already a waiting list to get in.