Health Issues among Incarcerated Women

By Ronald L. Braithwaite; Kimberly Jacob Arriola et al. | Go to book overview

18
Understanding the Parenting Rights
of Incarcerated Women
SANDRA BARNHILL
TEMIKA WILLIAMS
I.RYTAIn this chapter we will present a general overview of the research that exists about incarcerated women. We will give a statistical profile of an incarcerated woman and discuss the most prevalent reasons behind her entry into the criminal justice system, namely violations of drug laws, defending herself and/or her children from an abuser, and charges related to mental illness. In light of the fact that up to 70 percent of women under correctional sanction have minor children, we will also examine the implications that a prison sentence has on her children and family members (Bureau of Justice Statistics 1999). Finally, we will offer recommendations and a call for action in order to improve outcomes for incarcerated women, their children, and family members who are adversely impacted by her imprisonment.The most common issue an incarcerated woman is likely to face pertains to who will care for her children while she serves her sentence. She will likely find herself dealing with
┊ termination of her parental rights, often without due process of law;
┊ lack of knowledge regarding the procedure for appointing a temporary guardian of her children;
┊ uncertainty about how to maintain the parent-child relationship through visitation with her children at the prison;
┊ inadequate legal representation during criminal and child custody proceedings; and
┊ lack of knowledge regarding how to navigate the bureaucracy of the child welfare system when the state has assumed temporary custody of her children (based on the experience of Aid to Children of Imprisoned Mothers, Inc., or AIM).1

It is well settled that parenting is recognized as a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution. This fundamental right cannot be taken away solely on the basis

-299-

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