Mothers in Prison. Children in Crisis.

Warden Jim Cooksey, McPherson and Grimes Units, Newport, Arkansas

I've been in corrections for 18 years. I started in corrections at FCI Memphis in 1983, out of college. I went to USP Atlanta and then came back to Tennessee due to family and was brought up in the Tennessee system until 1992, at which time I went to work for a Corrections Corporation of America and then from Corrections Corporation of America I went to Wackenhut which in turn moved me to Arkansas in October of 2000, and I've been in Arkansas since October 2000 here at the grounds of the McPherson Unit. [Read More]

Diane Swaim, Executive Director, Second Genesis Transitional Home for Women Leaving Prison

Second Genesis started with the interest of a woman named Jean Cohen, who was a Chaplain at the time at Tucker Prison in Pine Bluff, the women's unit and Jean continued to see the women who would leave and they would say, "We're never coming back. We're going to make it this time" and within months they'd be back in and she kept asking, "What is – why are you coming back? Why is it that you can't make it out there?" And generally their answer would be, "Well, if we just had some support." We go right back in to the same family, the same neighborhood, the same friends and we get back in the same situation which almost inevitably included either drugs and/or alcohol and/or abuse. And so they wouldn't have to create a new crime or perform a new crime, they would simply have to break their parole and they could use any drugs, alcohol, that would break their parole. So, they'd go back in. So, she came up with the dream of if there was a place that you could go that would change your environment and give you a stay for a little while and just give you a boost and that's really what I think we try to do is just give them a boost. [Read More]

Dina Tyler - Arkansas Department of Corrections

I think, to a large degree, many people take the image that they've seen of corrections and of prisons from the movie screen and take it to heart and think that's the way it is and I think that many times everybody thinks that if someone commits a crime and they're sentenced to incarceration, that while they're here they should be absolutely miserable, that we should punish them every day. That's not our job to punish. The punishment is being sent here. Our job is to maintain the safety and good order of the institutions to make sure that everybody who's supposed to be here is here, to keep everybody safe and to provide something for them to be a little different. If we don't do that, if we don't try, they're just coming back. All of them are coming back and we've already seen our population nearly double each of the last three decades and the growth rate of the female population is far out-pacing that of the male population. That means that we have to do stuff in here and sometimes it may be innovative programs. It may be new programs. It may be revamping programs we already have but we've got to do things to try and stem that tide from our end. And the other side of the coin is, in a community things have to be done to try and stem the tide from that end so that they don't come here because if we continue, if the State of Arkansas continues at the present growth rate, there is not enough money in our budget to keep up with the rate of crime. We can't build our way out of this. There is no way Arkansas or any state can afford that. [Read More]

Estella Brown

Catherine's House is a non-profit organization. We work with adults and teens to help them get their GED and computer literacy. Catherine's House was run through a lady named Catherine McCullough out of Dublin, Ireland and she wanted something to help other young people who were less fortunate than she was and she found some people that was helping her. So, she decided she wanted to help someone else and so they created a program through the Sisters of Mercy out of St. Louis, Missouri. And here in Little Rock it's been here ever since 1995 run through the Sisters of Mercy here in Little Rock out of St. Louis, My job now is Head Start connection and what I do is go in to a Head Start Center to see what child or children have parents incarcerated to connect them with the material things that child or children are doing. [Read More]

Brenda Olive

It was on my mother's birthday which was November the 10th. They put my husband in the hospital and I took Deana the same day for a check up and they put her in the hospital. So, he told me to tell Deana that they would race this season to see who would get out first. Well, he died November 26th which that year was the day I had Thanksgiving and so Deana was still in the hospital. So, I really didn't want her to know that he died. So, I asked the nurse to put a note on her door the same night, so they called me and they told I needed to come up and tell her because someone was going to. So, I went in to the hospital and I told her that her father had died. And the only thing she asked me, she knew he was in intensive care and on a machine. So, the only thing she asked me was did I turn the machine off? And I told her, "No". So, she was all right with that. And so during the time they said there was nothing else they could do for her. So, she had decided that she wanted to come home. So, she came home the day of his funeral because there was nothing else they could do for her. And we were going through that. Everything because when she wanted to come home, that means she needed care. So, I had to make a decision. Do I tell her, "No, she can't come home because I have to work"? Or do I take a leave of absence and give her what her last thing is she wants and that's to come home? So, I decided to let her come home. [Read More]

Alisha Sryrock

My family and I moved to Arkansas in October of 1998 from Atlanta, Georgia. My husband and my three (3) children and myself. When we moved out here, my husband had not worked for about three and a half (3 1/2) years and we moved out here, to try to start over, to make a new start, a lot of marriage problems and thought change would be good. And after we got here, his routine continued. He never found a job. I decided that I would be better off financially without him because he was just adding to the stress and the strain and supporting him without him helping the family out. He moved back to Georgia in February and everything hit rock bottom. I didn't put in to perspective that I was going to be adding childcare for three (3) children on top of all of the other bills that I had and my finances just went tremendously down the drain. They (DHS) can't help provide childcare. They told me I needed to buy a new car or a car with less payments, less insurance, a house with less rent and I didn't have the money to do all of that. I didn't really think about what I did before I did it. A friend of mine that I had moved in with after the children and I got evicted from our home, had taken some checks from her sister and I was the ignorant one that wrote them. I was charged with forgery and every check that was written was for diapers, plus food, necessities. I mean, it wasn't, it wasn't anything that we didn't need. In June of 1999 I got arrested, went to jail and that same day my children went in to foster care. [Read More]


I hope you have children. And if you do, you know that a mother should be with her children. A child should have a relationship with their mother. They don't have their mom. They don't have that nurturing and caring. A mother should be someone that that child can count on to be there no matter what. And I'm not there; I've taken that away from them by my being here. Yeah, they get to come see me, but that doesn't make up for what I need to be doing, where a mother needs to be. They need to be there tucking them into bed, you know reading them stories at night, helping them with their prayers. I want to do that. I want to be the one to do that, and someone else is having to do that for me. And that's taking from them. [Read More]


I grew up in on the north side of Little Rock. My mother was a single parent. My father died when I was four years old and she raised five kids on her own. And she didn't drink or drug or club or anything, she raised me in church and everything, but as I got older I felt like I was being sheltered. I felt like I couldn't do what other kids did, or she favored my brothers and sisters more than me, because she expected more of me. And that made me rebel against what she wanted me to do in life. And as I got older, I just went astray. [Read More]

Kenya Richardson

I saw the doctor once a month. I went, everyday, to get my prenatal vitamins. They took me out to a free world doctor to get an ultra sound done. We ate three times a day, and you could buy snacks off of the commissary. So if you wanted to eat more, you could eat more. I left the actual prison, and went to a program called the MINT program, which is mothers and infants needed together. And they send you there, three months before you have the baby, and the baby stays there with you for three months. So at this program, you got a little bit more, more care than you did at the actual prison. You went to the doctor twice a month and they put you on WIC. Once the baby was born, we went to an actual hospital and stayed in the hospital for two days because it was just like I was free. But, I knew. They let the family come up to the hospital with you, visit with you. [Read More]

Kamilah Hayes

Child of a formerly incarcerated woman Granddaughter of a formerly incarcerated woman [Read More]

Susan McDougal

Susan McDougal spent time in seven jails and prisons over 22 months for refusing to testify against Bill and Hillary Clinton during the Whitewater investigation. Since her release, McDougal has been speaking publicly about the women she met during that time, arguing for their rights and using her celebrity to draw attention to the growing female prison population in America. AETN interviewed McDougal in May of 2001 about her experiences. [Read More]