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Pregnant Offender Population
The number of women in prison is increasing at nearly twice the rate of male offenders (Harrison & Beck, 2003). Fully 70% of women in prison are mothers, leading to estimates of 1.3 million American children with mothers in prison (Mumola, 2000). "The typical incarcerated female is of child rearing age, unmarried, a minority group member, a mother of minor children, undereducated, economically marginal, and has considerable experience with or is dependent on drugs or alcohol”
(Sandifer & Kurth, 2000, pg. 365). These mothers, although typically desiring the opportunity to establish or continue to bond with their child, may have limited chances for the frequent and routine contact that keeps the growth of the relationship.
The Wee Ones Nursery Program at IWP
In March 2008, the Indiana Women’s Prison implemented the Wee Ones Nursery (W.O.N.), a voluntary program available for pregnant offenders who met eligibility criteria. The intent of the W.O.N. program is to provide parenting education and to ensure quality time to strengthen the mother-infant bond during the initial months after the infant’s birth. During the past 19 months, 36 offenders have participated in the W.O.N. The W.O.N. program is modeled after a similar program in Ohio. Mothers and their babies have private rooms in one housing unit. A small cadre of trained nannies from the offender population also live on the housing unit, and assist the mothers in caring for their infants while the mothers attend classes, counseling appointments, and/or similar obligations. The program also included ongoing training of the mothers in child development and attachment.
Additional Programs Offered to W.O.N. Participates
The focus of learning will be divided among themes of understanding family system patterns and how individuals are a part of them, the importance of family history, and family communication patterns.
This group will offer education and support to women who are pregnant or mothers of children under age two. Focus is on building self-esteem, guidelines for healthy relationships, and connecting with community resources.
Clarian Health Network:
This group provides one-on-one assistance with mothers and their infants, focusing on child development, feeding issues, safe sleeping practices, appropriate discipline, family strengths and supports, and stress management.
Riley Development Center:
This group offers regular and ongoing training on child development.