Interventions in Prison Nurseries

  • Mary W. ByrneEmail author


A prison nursery is dedicated housing inside a criminal justice facility where incarcerated pregnant women continue to co-reside with and be the primary caregiver for their infants for a defined period of time following birth. Available globally, prison nurseries have been variously appraised as inadequate substitutes for social welfare in impoverished countries or as protections for child development and attachment where supportive resources are provided. Existence of nurseries in the USA has been relatively rare and erratic, with between one and thirteen state corrections departments supporting prison nurseries at any point in history. The exception is the New York State facility which is over a century old. Outcome studies for prison nurseries have primarily been descriptive based on observations, surveys, official records, and interviews. Evidence for reduction in criminal recidivism enhanced family support, and re-entry success remains contradictory or under-reported. The humanizing effects of infant presence on prisoners and staff and maternal grief and worry regarding children are consistent themes. Child development outcomes have been measured in the UK, Spain, and the USA, the latter with the most promising results associated with supportive programs. Community alternatives to maternal incarceration are receiving increasing attention to avoid separation of one or more children from parents.


Prison nursery Maternal incarceration State prison Jail Child separation from parent Alternative caregiver 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Nursing and College of Physicians & SurgeonsColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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