Approximately 219,000 women are incarcerated in the United States. Eighty percent of those women are mothers, and many of them are the primary caretakers of their children upon their incarceration. The above number does not include women on probation or parole (Kajstura, 2017). The intention of the Incarcerated Motherhood: Perspectives from Women in a 21st Century Ohio Prison Oral History project is to shed light on the lived realities inside Dayton Correctional Institute, one of Ohio’s two correctional facilities that houses women. According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, the Dayton Correctional Facility has a population of 848 incarcerated women.
By offering a voice to a variety of incarcerated mothers I hope to aid in vivid image of what it’s like to navigate crucial mother-child relationships and overcome the physical separation from kin. The criteria for this project resulted in self-selected participants who did not have charges related to their children, which likely left out some important perspectives. A diverse population of mothers ranging in demographics, time served/time sentenced, access to contact with their children and viewpoints on the prison itself are represented in these Oral Histories. To maintain the ethical protection of interviewees in their vulnerable positions we have adopted the practice of pseudonyms. This namelessness is not intended to curtail the impact or significance of their stories. These women talk about a variety of obstacles they face inside the prison, and offer immense insight on things that work for them, and things they wish they could change.
There has been plenty of scholarship exploring the impact incarceration has on children and families, but a crucial lack of voice has been given to mothers themselves. With roots in Anthropology, this particular Oral History project will also serve as the foundation data in a senior thesis based paper. In addition to the creation of a senior thesis project, a written recommendation- based on the interviews, will be made to the Ohio Department Rehabilitation and Corrections on steps they might consider taking to better facilitate parenting relationships inside state run facilities.
Please note that some of these interviews have less than perfect sound quality. There are background noises that may be distracting or frustrating to some listeners. The commotion in the background can be helpful at showing the near impossibility of securing privacy inside of prison walls. I hope that listeners understand the shortcomings of the audio recordings and move forward through their listening experience.
Kajstura, Aleks. “Women’s Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017.” Women’s Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie
2017 | Prison Policy Initiative, 19 Oct. 2017, www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2017women.html