Photo: Janine

Looking more closely at the results, the researchers found that children who stayed the longest in the nursery had the best outcomes. About half of the mothers had less than a year left on their sentence when their baby was born, and had returned home by the time of the assessment. The rate of secure attachment among those children, while still not significantly different from the rate for the comparison group of middle-class children, was lower than among their peers who had stayed in the nursery for a full year. Byrne hypothesized that rather than being harmed by the correctional setting, the babies actually benefitted from the structure the prison provided—particularly the restriction of drugs and alcohol, as well as the parenting support their mothers got from staff and other inmates. (The longitudinal study included parenting guidance from a nurse practitioner, which Byrne believes also contributed to the outcomes.)

— Sarah Yager reports in The Atlantic about how nursery prisons are helping incarcerated mothers and their babies.

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