We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Disrupted Childhoods

Children of Women in Prison

Jane A. Siegel

Publication Year: 2011

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.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Series: Series in Childhood Studies

Title Page, Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (56.4 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (29.0 KB)
p. vii-vii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (35.6 KB)
pp. ix-xi

A book like this is never the work of just one person, and so there are several people I would like to thank for their assistance. Most important, this book would not have been possible without the generous participation of the children and their mothers and guardians, who graciously allowed me into their...

read more

Introduction: Journeying into the Worlds of Prisoners’ Children

pdf iconDownload PDF (117.0 KB)
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...

Part One

read more

1. Living with Mom—Most of the Time

pdf iconDownload PDF (137.7 KB)
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...

read more

2. Outside the Curtained Windows

pdf iconDownload PDF (121.4 KB)
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...

read more

3. The Ubiquity of Violence

pdf iconDownload PDF (102.9 KB)
pp. 76-93

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...

Part Two

read more

4. When the Criminal Justice System Comes Calling

pdf iconDownload PDF (132.6 KB)
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...

read more

5. They All Do the Time

pdf iconDownload PDF (161.0 KB)
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...

read more

6. What Lies Ahead

pdf iconDownload PDF (130.4 KB)
pp. 162-189

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...

Appendix A: Doing Research with Children of Incarcerated Parents

pdf iconDownload PDF (45.3 KB)
pp. 191-195

Appendix B: A Portrait of the Children and Their Mothers

pdf iconDownload PDF (69.7 KB)
pp. 197-203


pdf iconDownload PDF (65.3 KB)
pp. 205-212


pdf iconDownload PDF (92.4 KB)
pp. 213-224


pdf iconDownload PDF (73.9 KB)
pp. 225-233

About the Author

pdf iconDownload PDF (32.5 KB)

E-ISBN-13: 9780813551012
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813550107

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Series in Childhood Studies