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Letter to the Editor: Community alternatives make sense

  

We are submitting the following Letter to the Editor in response to the Aug. 10 opinion piece on prison nurseries written by Reps. Bruce DeGroot and Curtis Trent.

We agree with Reps. DeGroot and Trent that babies belong with their mothers. As a developmental psychologist and a nurse, we have dedicated our lives to promoting secure attachments between children and their parents. We are among the few scholars nationally who have researched the effects of family interventions in prisons, including prison nurseries. One of us is an author on the prison nursery research referenced in this opinion piece.

It is with this experience that we say community alternatives for pregnant women and mothers make more sense than prison nurseries. States across the country are looking for ways to safely decrease the number of pregnant women and mothers in prisons. A bipartisan team of legislators in Minnesota just passed the Healthy Start Act. This law allows women who are pregnant or immediately postpartum to be housed in community settings instead of prison. Community settings can better address individuals’ substance misuse and histories of trauma, key factors that contribute to women’s incarceration and impact maternal-child bonding. Promising studies, including our own, demonstrate that women facing incarceration can live safely with their children in supportive community settings. The same compelling reasons to support prison nurseries apply to community alternatives, and they are much cheaper than prisons. The current scarcity of these alternatives is a reason to strengthen and further invest in them, not to send babies to prison.

Missouri can truly take the lead on both protecting babies and criminal justice reform by allowing pregnant women and mothers to live in supportive community alternatives to incarceration. We strongly encourage Reps. DeGroot and Trent to consider these alternatives and their legacy for Missouri families.

Thank you for considering the publication of this letter,

Lorie S. Goshin & Rebecca J. Shlafer

Lorie S. Goshin, PhD, RN, FAAN
Associate Professor of Nursing
Hunter College, City University of New York

Rebecca J. Shlafer, PhD, MPH
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
University of Minnesota