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Disrupted Childhoods

Disrupted Childhoods: Children of Women in Prison

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Disrupted Childhoods
    Book Description:

    Millions of children in the United States have a parent who is incarcerated and a growing number of these nurturers are mothers. Disrupted Childhoods explores the issues that arise from a mother's confinement and provides first-person accounts of the experiences of children with moms behind bars. Jane A. Siegel offers a perspective that recognizes differences over the long course of a family's interaction with the criminal justice system.

    Presenting an unparalleled view into the children's lives both before and after their mothers are imprisoned, this book reveals the many challenges they face from the moment such a critical caregiver is arrested to the time she returns home from prison. Based on interviews with nearly seventy youngsters and their mothers conducted at different points of their parent's involvement in the process, the rich qualitative data of Disrupted Childhoods vividly reveals the lived experiences of prisoners' children, telling their stories in their own words. Siegel places the mother's incarceration in context with other aspects of the youths' experiences, including their family life and social worlds, and provides a unique opportunity to hear the voices of a group that has been largely silent until now.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-5101-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Journeying into the Worlds of Prisonersʹ Children
    (pp. 1-20)

    Valencia was eleven years old when she wrote this poem to her mother, who was locked in a prison some three hundred miles away. After her mother was incarcerated, Valencia and her older sister went to live with her grandparents in a public housing project in another state. There they joined their teenaged brother, who had been raised by their grandparents and had never lived with Valencia and her mother. Valencia’s new family also included her grandparents’ infant great-grandson, who had been living with them since his birth. Her grandparents, living on a fixed income supplemented by food stamps, struggled...


    • 1 Living with Mom–Most of the Time
      (pp. 23-50)

      Ronald, Shaquilla’s eleven-year-old son, had witnessed this episode between his mother and her boyfriend four years earlier. The event is emblematic of the trauma that many children whose parents are involved in the justice system experience. Shaquilla’s removal from the house would have been a shocking event for a child to witness, but to view the arrest in isolation from what preceded it is to ignore the reality of such children’s lives. Which aspect of this incident is likely to have the most enduring effect on Ronald? Shaquilla’s drug use, which left her so high that she was unable to...

    • 2 Outside the Curtained Windows
      (pp. 51-75)

      It happened time and again: walking into a child’s house, I would be struck by its dimness. Only after the first few interviews did I begin to realize that the houses had something in common that created these darkened interiors: makeshift curtains shrouded their front windows—blankets, bedsheets, lengths of material, and even on occasion some old curtains. Unlike drapes or curtains that can be closed or opened to provide a view of the outside and allow light in, this expedient blocked the windows from view. In truth, the scene outside many of the houses was decidedly unlovely. Occupied homes...

    • 3 The Ubiquity of Violence
      (pp. 76-94)

      Jasmine is thirteen, and playing basketball is her passion. She plays as often as she can and lifts weights to build up her muscles, so Jasmine is a strong young woman. That’s good for her not just because it improves her playing but also because Jasmine fights. She’ll fight anyone, but mostly she fights boys because the girls are scared of her. No sissy girl fighting for Jasmine: she knows how to throw a punch because her older male cousin taught her how. When she fights a girl, she’s liable to hurt her, as she did in this fight she...


    • 4 When the Criminal Justice System Comes Calling
      (pp. 97-124)

      Imagine this.

      You are ten years old, getting ready for school in the early morning of a cold December day shortly before Christmas. You are still drowsy at this early hour. Your mother is helping you and your sisters and brothers get washed up and dressed when someone bangs on the front door. Your older sister goes to the door and suddenly the house is swarming with police officers and other men and women with badges clipped to their clothes. Your mother tells you and your brothers and sisters to help her hide and runs into a closet, where you...

    • 5 They All Do the Time
      (pp. 125-161)

      Faith and Brittany, nine- and ten-year-old sisters, epitomize the meaning of adorable. They brim with exuberant energy, constantly sharing giggles and charming others with their smiles. However, their sunniness is eclipsed when talk turns to their parents, who are both in prison. The girls have lived with their beloved Granny since they were toddlers, when their mother and father began serving twenty-year sentences for robbery, and life for the girls is much different than they imagine it would have been if their parents had not been locked up. Granny, their paternal grandmother, is sixty-two years old and in poor health....

    • 6 What Lies Ahead
      (pp. 162-190)

      Terence’s start in life was not promising. Here’s how his mother, Cynthia, described herself and what happened the day he was born:

      I was a heavy drug user. Though I had already had two children, my two children were in turn with my grandmother and my mother, off and on. I mean I used drugs real heavy, and I can’t express it enough, I mean real heavy. I never used needles, like that. I never used needles, I always used a pipe, and I was in love with that pipe and I thought that pipe was more than life itself....

    (pp. 191-196)
    (pp. 197-204)
  9. NOTES
    (pp. 205-212)
    (pp. 213-224)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 225-233)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 234-234)