Mothers in Prison. Children in Crisis.
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1. How many incarcerated mothers in Arkansas have minor children?
There are approximately 1000 women imprisoned in our state system of corrections. 900 have minor children with 3 children per mother. This means we have 2700 children with mothers in our state prison. This does not include the children of mothers serving time in jails in our state, nor does it include the mothers who are on bail or under parole or probation status.
2. What kind of services are available for relatives caring for other relatives' children who are imprisoned?
There is cash assistance at a rate of $82 for the first child and $41 for all of the subsequent children, meaning $1.69 per day for those typical three children. The caregiver families may also qualify for Medicaid, and, if the household income is low enough, they may qualify for Food Stamps. There is no guardianship subsidy in our state. Yet, the state foster care system will pay strangers and relatives who meet the foster care standards, and the stipend can be as much as $500 per child with an array of services including transportation, etc.
3. What are the most common crimes that women commit?
Non-violent, usually Theft, Fraud, or Possession of drugs with intent to sell. Typically, women commit crimes of economics related to survival and their addiction illness.
4. Do the children want to visit their mothers in prison?
In most cases, the children want to very much. It is usually the mother or the caregiver who decides it is not in the children's best interests. Most children are very anxious about how their mothers are being treated, and they miss them greatly. The frequency of visits allows the children to maintain a relationship with their mothers.
5. How often do mothers and children have visits?
Less than half of the mothers receive any sort of visit from their children.
6. What about children with fathers in prison? Is it the same?
Children of incarcerated fathers are usually left behind with their mothers. Their lives are not as disrupted by moving to a new household or separated from their brothers and sisters. Visits with their father usually depend on the relationship between mothers and fathers. Most dads in prison did not live with their children at the time of their incarceration.
7. Why are these children so vulnerable to getting into the criminal justice system?
We are just now learning more about this. Many groups are studying the possible explanations. The most promising hypothesis is that the children are traumatized by the violence they have seen in their homes and communities, substance abuse in their homes, underprotection from their addicted parent, the trauma of witnessing their mother's arrest, then her absence, and we all know how traumatizing that can be for a child at any age.
8. How can we help break this cycle of incarceration?
There are many ways and many new strategies. Communities have to open their hearts and minds to these children. Talk with them, mentor them, help a grandmother transport her grandchildren to needed services, develop support groups in your religious organization, write letters to your elected officials and policy makers, BE THERE!
9. Is this really related to my life?
Yes, it is. The dollars being spent on incarceration can be better used for prevention and alternatives to incarceration. We need more community-based supervision possibilities for these mothers, that will allow them to stay with their children or at least in the communities where their children live. Most mothers in prison will be home with their children in a fairly brief time, eighteen months or so. Repairing the damage of the loss of a mother is not easily done and leaves wounds for the children that can only be healed with helping the children process these feelings of fear, abandonment, anger, and grief.
10. What is going to happen to these children?
WE will see them in our prisons and juvenile detention, undereducated, depressed, addicted, and feeling themselves to be of no worth or value.WE must begin to serve them and their families, rather than allowing the worst to happen.