Mothers in Prison

Earlier this month, the New York Times posted an article about incarcerated women in the United States and the detrimental effects that their imprisonment has on their families. The article specifically speaks out on the effects that female incarceration has on the children of those imprisoned. According to a study conducted by the Russel Sage Foundation, there appears to be a clear connection in America between the 64% decline in household resources and the incarceration of a family member. In turn, this 64% decline appears to only further increase the poverty and racial gap that exists here in America.

This article reminds me of our class’s conversation about birth control and sterilization in history with regard to women of color. I found this article to be most relevant with regard to understanding the different forms of birth control that are utilized today including incarceration. Taking into context both the history of forced sterilization and ineffective forms of birth control that targeted women of color and the fact that women of color are more likely to be incarcerated than white women, it’s possible to visualize modern day incarceration itself as a new form of sterilization. What I find to be most important to remember while reading this article are the differences that exist between the rates of prosecution of women of color compared to that of white women. Through further research into the topic, I learned that black women are 3 times more likely to be incarcerated than white women and Hispanic women are 2 times more likely to be incarcerated that white women. By keeping these incarceration rates in mind, we are able to paint a clear racial picture of what classes of families are being predominantly affected by these detrimental effects discussed in the article. Women of color’s imprisonments immediately inhibit both their ability to reproduce children as well foster the children that they already have. This thereby increases the mortality rates of the children of these women and in turn steadily decreases the population rates of people of color.

2 thoughts on “Mothers in Prison”

  1. You’re absolutely right and this is precisely why the reproductive justice movement led by women of color has, from the get-go, included the right to parenting children under the rubric of reproductive rights. I’m interested in hearing more about your claim that “it’s possible to visualize modern day incarceration itself as a new form of sterilization.” There’s a lot to be said about this…if you’re interested, start by checking out the work of Angela Y. Davis (who we read in class) and consider volunteering for PU’s Prison Teaching Initiative.

  2. I agree with you in that high incarceration rates among women of color essentially manifests into involuntary sterilization. I think that the average age in which incarcerated women of color enter the prison systems has something to do with this problem. Women of color that are incarcerated are more likely than not in the prime age group for having kids. I think that this article just goes to show how multifaceted these systems of oppression are.

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