Prison nurseries give incarcerated mothers a chance to raise their babies

Advocates say keeping infants with their mothers, even behind bars, is good for both. Critics say it’s unconstitutional.

By Elizabeth Chuck

BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. — Lindsay Landon beamed as her 10-month-old son, Gabriel, scooted across a playroom. He crawled over to a baby walker, proudly pulled himself up to stand — then promptly fell over. Lip quivering, he looked to his mother.

“Aw, you want Mama?” Landon, 26, asked.

She scooped him into a hug and carried him to a window cracked just enough to let in the sound of chirping. Gabriel, unfazed by bars on the window, pointed to a bird. Soon he was all smiles again and played with his mother until a loud voice interrupted them.

“Count!”

Landon gave Gabriel a squeeze against her dark green jumpsuit and handed him off to a caregiver. It was time for the midday prisoner count at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility — an all-women’s maximum-security prison in New York’s Westchester County where Landon is a prisoner and Gabriel has spent his entire young life.

Bedford Hills has the nation’s longest-running prison nursery. Opened in 1901, it has allowed hundreds of women who have started their sentences pregnant to bond with their babies while behind bars — something advocates say is best for babies and lowers the mothers’ recidivism rate, but some critics argue violates the children’s constitutional rights using taxpayer money, while placing a burden on prison staff by requiring them to double as day care workers.

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2019-02-06T20:40:11-06:00