Carol Strickman


Parental incarceration thwarts the relationships of children with their parents. Nurturing family bonds run counter to the dominant philosophy and practices of incarceration, which punish people by removing them from their families and communities, restraining them in small spaces, and depriving them of ordinary freedoms, pleasures, and self-determination. Family-friendly programs mandated by the legislature often fail in the implementation phase due to a lack of political and community support.

This article examines three California prison programs that focus on prisoners’ relationships with their children and other family members. California’s mother-infant programs provide innovative alternatives to traditional prison, where pregnant women and mothers live in community-based housing with their children up to age six. The Alternative Custody Program allows for the early release of women prisoners and parent-caregivers of minor children and placement in a community facility or home. Finally, for prisoners in traditional prison, the regular visiting program provides an important avenue to maintain family ties.