At Washington state’s largest corrections center for women, 871 inmates are serving their sentences. Among them, reports KXLY television, are 8 babies being raised right in the middle of it all. It’s a trailblazing program being adopted in other states. But, is prison a safe place to raise a child?
“We’re promoting a healthy bond between incarcerated women and their children,” explained Sonja Alley, who supervises the program at the Washington Corrections Center for Women. One recent day, the program housed 10 women and 10 kids, with the youngest child just two weeks old. Women must meet strict criteria to qualify: they have to be minimum-security offenders, and mental health is evaluated. While there are exceptions, the women typically are serving a sentence of 30 months or less. It’s a short time in prison terms, but a lifetime for these infants and toddlers. The program is designed to keep moms and babies from ever coming back. “Children of incarcerated parents are five to seven times more likely to be incarcerated themselves,” Alley said. “So, we’re really trying to break that chain.”