TN Helps Prison Mothers Try To Break Crime Cycle


The odds are against Jaden Sanderson, one of 24,000 children in Tennessee with at least one parent in prison, says The Tennessean. If nothing is done to help them connect with their parents, 70 percent of those children will probably end up in prison themselves, Big Brothers Big Sisters reports. The state wants to reverse that trend by recognizing that when a woman goes to prison she should not stop being a mother. “It’s a different age in corrections. We no longer can lock them up and throw away the key. It doesn’t work,” said Dorinda Carter, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Correction.

Seventy percent of the 1,120 women in prison in Tennessee are mothers. Eight of them are pregnant. From parenting classes to having toddlers spend the weekend in prison, programs aimed at rehabilitating the entire family – both in and out of prison – may help when it comes to breaking the cycle of crime passed from one generation to the next. Mothers in prison are faced with choices: Steer a child away in hopes of letting him live a normal life without intrusive security pat-downs and constant emotional goodbyes. Or try to build a relationship as best she can. Most, especially those serving long sentences, sever all ties with their children and families. In 2002, Tennessee was one of the first states to allow the children of female offenders to visit prison for one entire weekend each month. It became a model program for other departments of correction.

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