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And I thought I was having a rough day. Here’s a report on women parenting babies in prison.

The report looks at a number of different programs that allow mothers and babies to stay together while the women serve their prison sentences. Laying aside one’s feelings about the efficacy or ethics of locking people up for non-violent crimes, programs that allow moms and babies to stay together seem like a great step toward breaking the cycle of poverty-crime-prison that many of these babies are born into. That’s a boon not just to the individual mothers and babies, but to all of us.

I was upset by the general tone of commentary on Feministing’s post about this. A lot of people were critical of these programs because they saw them as inappropriately privileging mothers over women who don’t bear children but might have other worthwhile things to do with their lives. I get that, but I think it misses the point that these programs are at least as much about the babies as they are about the women.

Several people said that mothers have no special relationship to newborn infants, and that anyone can care for a newborn as well the biological mother can. I don’t think that even warrants a response, and were I to attempt one it would be in language too colorful for this blog.

What I did not see, and am interested in, is perspectives from women who’ve been in prison, or those whose mothers were. If you’ve had that experience, or been close to people having that experience, I’d love to hear your perspective in the comments.


Via the inestimable Ms. R, from whom I get much of my wacky parenting news: this story from the NYT tells about foreign parents losing their American-born children when they’re arrested for immigration violations.

Much of the article focuses on a woman who was arrested when her son was 6 months old. During her incarceration by the feds awaiting deportation, a state judge gave her now-two-year-old child away for adoption.

The article subtly displays the inherent racism and class prejudice of the case: a poor Latina woman gets inadequate legal representation and resources, and her child is adopted out to an upper-middle-class American family. The judge who gave her child away says, ““Her lifestyle, that of smuggling herself into the country illegally and committing crimes in this country, is not a lifestyle that can provide stability for a child.”

The message: being American is better than anything else, and to truly be American you must perform middle-class values.

It might be argued that the judge is right; the adopting couple can offer this little boy a “better” life than his biological mother. To believe that, you have to buy into the notion that middle-class is “better” than poor and a life here is “better” than a life in Guatemala. Ms. Bail, the boys mother, clearly does not. “My parents were poor, and they never gave me to anyone,” Ms. Bail recalled. “I was not going to give my son to anyone either.”

Of course the things the judge wants for Ms. Bail’s son – stability, an education, a “good” home – are the things I want for my kids. In a perfect all children would be awarded an equal measure of love, education, and a happy home life. Quite possibly this judge’s decision gives the kid a statistically higher chance at getting the things many people want: a long healthy life, a college education, safety from violence and crime, etc.

I don’t think it’s right though, for the judge to simply reassign the kid to a “better” family. Bail is not accused of doing anything wrong as a mother; she’s accused of being in this country illegally, where she was working at a factory. One might even imagine that she risked her own life and left her home to come here and work in the hope of giving her own children a better future. It’s shocking to me that her parental rights were even on the table as a possible loss in these circumstances. We don’t normally empower our legal officials to go around scooping up children who are in adequate-but-poor homes and farming them out to richer families. This woman is being victimized because she’s not an American citizen.

Of course, the tragedy has already occurred. The kid is living now with his adoptive parents, the only family he’s ever known. It really would be wrong to wrench him from that home to deport him alongside his mother to a country who’s language he does not speak with a woman he does not know to parent him.

I’d like to hope the attention this case has gotten will spark some reform within the immigration system, to prevent future incidents. But I don’t imagine it will. It’s just another friendly reminder from the press that racism and classism are alive and well within our borders.

In addition to her many, many, many skill and talents, Ms. Roham Clinton apparently makes a mean chocolate chip cookie.

EDIT: a great, lactose-free chocolate chip cookie

While the QOTD on Tuesday was definitely, “Barack Obama WINS!”, I also do not want to forget this gem:

“Mommy, what is voting?”

{insert long description of the physical process of filling out a registration card, getting assigned a polling place, walking over there, standing inline, going into a little ballot box, and filling out a ballot card, which is then put in the little machine}

“Oh. Because I thought voting was when everyone puts on their ice skates and we all skate around on a frozen pond in a circle and talk about who we would like to vote for, and then we skate some more. I thought that was it.”

Flickr Photos

A little bird told me…

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