Next spring, children of eligible inmates at the women’s prison in Lusk will have the opportunity to spend critical bonding time with their mothers as part of the legislature’s decision to fund a one million-dollar prison nursery.
Wyoming Women’s Center Warden Phil Myer says children separated from their incarcerated mothers suffer emotionally in ways that follow them throughout their lives, including depression, trouble with school and juvenile crime--often leading them into jail as adults, too. "The vast majority of our inmates are going to be out of prison and they’re going to be living in communities in Wyoming, " says Myer, "and statistics show as part of re-entry it’s very important to maintain those relationships with family and children, and to give them effective parenting skills. So I think the legislature saw it as a valuable way to stop that generational cycle of crime."
Myer says that women involved in similar programs, such as those in neighboring Nebraska, have lower rates of recidivism. A total of 122 children have mothers incarcerated at the Wyoming Women’s Center. "The focus is not necessarily on the mother who’s incarcerated because she’s here because she did something wrong and rightfully needs to be. But the children are oftentimes forgotten about," says Myer, "and that’s what our focus is going to be, is on the children, and doing what we can do for them."
Eligibility requirements for inmates will likely include minimum custody status and no history of child abuse. Participating pregnant mothers will live with their babies for eighteen months. Older children will have the chance for overnight visits of up to five consecutive days.