Inadequate transportation and distances and the prisoner-caregiver relationship, combined with caregiver’s helplessness to bring children to a prison are the most common causes for not being visited by their children. Occasionally the enforced separation between mother and child can result in permanent damage and possible termination of the parent child relationship. The passing of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) in 1997 increased the risk of children being taken away from their parents. This legislation allows states to file for termination of parental rights if a child has been in foster care for 15 or more of 22 consecutive months.
Women in prison are mostly portrayed as bad mothers, who cannot provide sufficiently for the needs of their children However, separation from and concern about the well-being of their children are among the most damaging aspects of prison for women, and the problem is made worse by no contact One of the greatest stresses for women and men serving time is that the separation from children is generally a much greater hardship for women than for men. For many incarcerated mothers, their relationships, or lack of contact with their children can profoundly affect how they function in the criminal justice system.
Often, behaviors such as persistent defiance of authority and refusal to obey instructions exploitation breaking the rules , and fighting among incarcerated women are symptoms of what have described as “struggle for survival” because of their intense grief, loss, and shame of being separated from their children and their guilt of being without their children. Grandparents most usually care for the children of female offenders, while some of these children are in foster care or group homes. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 54 percent of mothers in state prisons of 2000 had had no personal visits with their children since their incarceration.
Experts agree that more gender specific and responsive programming in the justice system is necessary to address the special needs of women prisoners. Most programs have been developed for men and combined programs are commonly designed for men’s needs. Even programs for women generally do not cater to their requirements. Therefore women, who generally come into the criminal justice system with histories of drug addiction and alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, distress and no job skills and education, generally do not improve. They also have little support in their communities or families for finishing programs, resulting in high dropout rates. In spite of this history of failure, programs that take into account their diversified needs work well.