By Tyler Owens
The idea of women in the criminal punishment system has forever been overlooked in regards to the way in which these incarcerated women should be treated. There are currently over seven-hundred thousand women that are incarcerated out of the over ten million incarcerated people throughout the world. Women and girls within the criminal punishment system are not topics that are commonly spoken on when questioning what changes and differences are needed in order to better the criminal punishment system. This is a result of men being the prevalent focus of the system because they make up the majority of the incarcerated. The time for incarcerated women of the criminal punishment system to gain more rights and awareness is long overdue. There are also certain minority groups that are heavily affected by the living conditions and treatment they are forced to adapt to as incarcerated mothers, women of color, and lower-class women which affects families as well.
There are many factors that affect mothers and their motherhood such as the termination of their parental rights, child services, and contact during incarceration which are all results of their incarceration. Also, the struggles of lower class, minority, black and brown women differ from any other incarcerated women. The welfare system is a form of surveillance on black and brown women through their “stratified reproduction” of race, class, and gender, allowing some people’s mother to be supported and valued while others’ is not. Stratified reproduction is a social concept that describes imbalances in the ability of people of different races, ethnicities, nationalities, classes, and genders to reproduce and nurture their children. When child welfare systems apply this to their institution to compromise this specific group, incarcerated mothers of color are affected not only because they are of color and they are incarcerated, but also because they are put last, after white Americans that are also incarcerated.
“It takes a whole village to raise a child” is an expression which I have often heard
growing up which in this scenario is used to support the idea that caretakers of children with incarcerated mothers face many expectations as the mothers become incarcerated. Minority groups continue to be at a disadvantage as incarcerated mothers are interdependent on their children’s grandparents and other relatives rather than the fathers of these children. As grandparents lack the proper resources to raise their grandchildren, the hardships are placed on them. Grandparents continue to provide for their grandchildren based on the cultural tradition of kinkeeping and commitment regardless of their struggle to support their dependent
grandchildren. It must be considered that carektaking goes beyond sending the children to school, providing them with proper shelter, and keeping the children fed. While those needs are basic needs, the psychological state of the children need caretaking as well because one can only imagine how traumatic watching your mother go through the criminal punishment system as a child, may be. Without a doubt, grandparents should receive greater assistance and resources as they continue to support their blood and tend to the responsibilities of their incarcerated children regardless of their own circumstances.