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w March 25, 2007

Not Just Cookies

I just finished watching a special on the Oxygen network called "Daughters Left Behind", which focuses on the daughters of incarcerated mothers, hosted by Lisa Ling. Aside from the bawling that I did, thinking about what it would be like to be separated from my own two beloved girls for years at a stretch, it was really heartening to hear about two different programs aimed at helping these girls not only break the cycle, but to foster a lasting bond with their mothers. One was in Australia, so god only knows whether our progressive country would adopt it, but it was a brilliant idea, I thought: mothers who demonstrate non-violent behavior, refrain from drug use, and will have children under the age of six by the time of their release...live with their kids. In prison, yes, but to tell the truth, you'd barely know that it was. Women live with three other mothers in cottages that are only locked down at night, and there is plenty of open space and play equipment for the young ones all around, for lack of a better word, the compound. Apparently this program has been in place since the mid-90s, and by all accounts, has been a great success. The theory is that the first five to six years are so vital to the psychological and emotional health of a child that it's better to live with Mom in prison than without her outside. And seriously, it doesn't look like prison, it looks like a faintly sterile summer camp.

In the States, there are a few programs designed to maintain the fragile link between these daughters and their mothers; one of the more successful ones is Girl Scouts Beyond Bars, which establishes troops based on the shared experience of being the child of an incarcerated mother. Bi-monthly, the girls are collected by van and taken to the participating correctional instiute, where they essentially have a regular troop meeting, with their moms, in a large open room, no bars, no grates, no restraints. I freely admit I was snuffling quite heartily by the end of this segment, but I was also incredibly proud to have been a Brownie and a Girl Scout.

I will do my best to...make the world a better place. You had better believe they are practicing what they preach.

by at March 25, 2007 6:53 PM | TrackBack Comments
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