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Why Punish the Children? A Reappraisal of the Children of Incarcerated Mothers in America.

While this book does not present much new information to people in the corrections field, it is a good first step toward educating the general public about the plight of children of incarcerated mothers. Its prime use to corrections professionals is its appendix, which offers a good summary of some of the programs now assisting incarcerated mothers and their children. This should prove helpful for those wishing to set up new programs where none exist in their system.

The book has seven chapters. Chapter 1 lays the foundation of the problem--the rise in the number of women going to prison is leading to more children being left adrift. Chapter 2 provides good data on the ethnicity, education and economic status of incarcerated women. It also indicates that a majority of incarcerated women have been physically or sexually abused at some point in their lives.

The third chapter, which deals with the caregivers of the children of incarcerated women, includes an excellent summary of the problems encountered by family members who undertake the responsibility of caring for the children of incarcerated mothers. It describes the disruption to caregivers' lives, the financial burdens they experience and the kinds of life adjustments they and the children must make. It also covers the relationship problems that often arise among caregivers, children and incarcerated mothers.

Chapters 4 and 5 deal with the role and responsibilities of child welfare agencies and corrections. Chapter 6 suggests a policy reform agenda, and Chapter 7 recommends actions and reforms designed to benefit children.

Despite the small samples used, the book gives a good profile of incarcerated women and draws credible conclusions about some of the major problems they and their families encounter. Readers should be warned, however, that the authors clearly favor programs and policies that keep the mother and child together. They assume this would be best for the child. Many of us in corrections know this is not necessarily so.

Many incarcerated mothers have drug problems, and most of their energy before incarceration was devoted not to caring for their children but to getting money for their habits. While the mother's incarceration is no doubt one of the traumas in the child's life, it is by no means the major trauma. I believe the continuous abuse and neglect experienced by many children before the mother's incarceration influences the child much more negatively than the actual incarceration.

The book does not adequately deal with this fact or the related fact that some children are better off away from their mothers. This is a reality that both professionals in the field of child welfare and corrections must confront honestly.

Reviewed by Bridget Gladwin, superintendent, Taconic Correctional Facility, Bedford Hills, N.Y.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Correctional Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Gladwin, Bridget
Publication:Corrections Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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