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Abstract

This note opens the prison doors and delves into the United States female prison system, primarily focusing on the positive and negative impact of nursery programs on mothers and children, along with potential constitutional claims that can be brought against these programs. Part I provides a general background about the American prison system, and briefly touches on the constitutional standards of prisoners’ rights. It also discusses the history and development of female prisons and illustrates the rapid increase of female incarceration. Part II focuses on the prevalence of mothers within the female population in prisons. Part III introduces prison nursery programs and explains their history and how they operate. Part IV discusses the positive impact prison nurseries have had on both mothers and children. Part V touches on a few negative effects and the limitations of these programs. Finally, Part VI raises three potential constitutional challenges that can be raised against prison nurseries: two arguments based on the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause and one argument based on the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause. As this note will conclude, there should be an increase in the implementation of prison nursery programs in American prisons, as the value of these programs greatly outweighs their limitations. Moreover, potential constitutional attacks on these programs should not be discouraging, as they are unlikely to prevail.