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A Mother's Voice

Team members: Row 1 (l-r) Laurie Parks, Michael Dantzler, Sally Huguley
Row 2 (l-r) Scott Price, Shawn Foster, Sandra Jordan, Bryan Stirling
(not pictured: Mike Williams)

Child Trends released a report citing that more than five million U.S. children have had a resident parent incarcerated at one point or another. While men make up 99 percent of the U.S. prison population, the number of women and mothers involved in the criminal justice system has grown significantly over the last 20 years.

Since 1991, the numbers of mothers in state and federal prisons has more than doubled, to an estimated 120,000. The majority of women are incarcerated for non-violent related offenses, like drug, property, or public-order offenses. 

Since incarcerated women are often custodial parents when they are sent to prison their absence can have a profound effect on their children, partners, and other family members.

Maternal incarceration can negatively influence children’s well-being—many of these children demonstrate depression, anxiety, and rule-breaking behavior, and are more likely to drop out of school, be suspended, be absent from school, and do poorly academically, compared with classmates without a parent in prison.

One of the hardest things for mothers to deal with when in prison creates a separation from their children and other family members.

Maintaining these relationships can be one of incarcerated mothers’ primary concerns, potentially affecting their mental health while in prison.

Children visiting their mothers in prison or jail can be difficult. Inflexible visitation policies and the lack of child-friendly visitation spaces may limit the incarcerated mother’s ability to see their children.

A Mother’s Voice provides incarcerated Mom’s with recordable books suitable for toddlers and small children. Moms record their own voice as they read the book then give the book to their child/children to keep….and read it over and over “together.”

The Mission: Connecting children with their incarcerated moms through the joy of reading.

The Objectives:

  • Reinforce basic literacy skills
  • Support family structure & bonds between mother & child.
  • Increase communication between parent & child
  • Enrich lives of both incarcerated mothers & their children
  • Become better mothers & citizens.

Additional Benefits:

  • Women in the prison community will assist each other, which strengthens camaraderie and good citizenship.
  • Improves the reading skills of incarcerated women (reading coaches are available).
  • Lessens the sense of loss of connection.
  • Promotes positive self-image. It is something positive incarcerated mothers can “do” for their children.

Press Coverage

WISTV, WISTV (pdf format), The State