the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Baby and Mother Bonding Initiative. Mandated by the 80th Texas Legislature, the program gives select state jail inmates the chance to live and bond with their newborns.I'm particularly glad to see this up and running. Recognizing the effects of "attachment disorder" among infant children of prisoners is one of those rare moments when the justice system actually looks ahead beyond the next budget cycle, aiming to prevent problems many years from now instead of just reacting to them. Crime frequently "runs in families," but not because it's genetic. Rather that's typically a function of poisonous familial environments and lousy parenting beginning at the very earliest stages of life. The effects of attachment disorder during this early period can be particularly problematic, setting the stage for a child's behavioral problems that may later implicate the criminal justice system. According to this source:
Operated out of the Santa Maria Hostel, a northeast Houston facility for troubled women, the program offers young mothers life skills and substance abuse counseling, classes leading to a GED and a crash course in parenting. The idea, said Santa Maria CEO Kay Austin, is to give the baby a wholesome start and the mother an incentive to stay straight.
"Our concern has been with the ability of the mother to form a bond with the baby, but that's not our only concern," Austin said. "The child — that's the big issue here. When you have a child with an attachment disorder, you've got people going through TDCJ again and again. We're trying to break that cycle."
Becky Price, deputy director of TDCJ's rehabilitation programs division, said the state's program is patterned after a similar effort at a Fort Worth federal prison. At its core, the program, which is supported by the University of Texas Medical Branch and other organizations, strives to instill a sense of responsibility in women who previously acted irresponsibly
Children with attachment disorders or other attachment problems have difficulty connecting to others and managing their own emotions. This results in a lack of trust and self-worth, a fear of getting close to anyone, anger, and a need to be in control. A child with an attachment disorder feels unsafe and alone.That sounds like a profile of kids at risk of getting caught up in the juvenile justice system later in life. Indeed, focusing crime prevention resources on providing support and opportunities for children of incarcerated parents would probably get a lot more long-term bang for the buck than a lot of other things the justice system spends its money on.
About half of inmates and most women inmates are parents, and IMO teaching parenting skills and encouraging positive interactions with their kids is probably more important than, say, getting a GED. Coupled with a prison record, a GED doesn't earn you that many opportunities, but most ex-prisoners who succeed upon reentry do so because of sustaining relationships with their families, which are a lot easier for everybody to maintain if the ex-offender is behaving like a parent. And as this TDCJ program recognizes, behaving like a parent can never begin too early.