Group Members Laurel Bates, Maedchen Britton, Rachel Brouwer, Nick Ferrell Purpose Statement



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Project Description
In prisons across America there is a recurring trend of undernourishment among inmates.  Prisons generally have a tight budget of which they spend at most $4.00, and often as little as $2.30 on two to three meals per day per inmate.  Focusing specifically on women's prisons, inmates are supposed to consume 2,400 calories per day; "every inmate...pregnant or otherwise, receives a 2,400 calorie diet (Harris County)."  While pregnant women in prison do often receive limited prenatal vitamins there is no special diet prepared for them.  This presents a problem, as pregnant women require certain nutrients to ensure proper development of their child.  Additionally, an undernourished mother is far more likely to have complications with birth, which drive up healthcare costs and cost the prison more money; " Failing to provide preventive and curative health care for incarcerated mothers may cost more to society than funding programs that might improve attachment and parenting behaviors, facilitate drug rehabilitation, and reduce recidivism among this population(Hotelling)."  Aside from the cost benefit, there is the ethical concern.  Just because the mother is in prison, does not mean the child should suffer.

           Once the baby has been born, prisons present another serious issue for the new mother and her child.  The vast majority of prisons do not allow much in the way of mother/child visitation rights.  In fact, in many cases the child is removed from the mother's company very shortly after birth.  On the surface this does not appear too serious, maybe it even appears logical to some.  In reality this is quite the opposite.  A child's nutrition is critical in these early stages of development.  The best way for a newborn to acquire the necessary nutrients is through breastfeeding.  If a child is not around its mother breastfeeding becomes impossible and instead the child must consume baby formula, which is proven to be inferior in many respects.  Breast milk enhance "...the immature immunologic system...bioactive factors...such as hormones, growth factors and colony stimulating factors, as well as specific nutrients(Oddy)."  Keeping the child's best interests in mind, it makes sense to allow children to see their mothers and allow the mothers to breastfeed regularly.

           On an even larger scale, is has been found that breastfed babies tend to have higher IQs and fewer neurological problems later in life.  These two factors contribute heavily to the likelihood of a child becoming a delinquent or offender.  Even if this issue is examined without taking breast milk into account, children who grow up undernourished have a much higher rate of committing crimes.  The logical step would be to ensure these kids do not start their lives undernourished, and to teach their mothers about being healthy on a budget while they are in custody.

           Stepping away briefly from nutrition, the other extremely important part of development is that the baby establish a secure bond with its mother.  Early experiences will shape how the child acts and thinks as it grows older.  It is important that the mother be around to meet the baby's basic needs in the first two years of life to increase the chances of a successful bond taking place.  A study in the UK "...shows that more than 80% of long-term prison inmates have attachment problems that stem from babyhood; there is now evidence to suggest you can predict two thirds of future chronic criminals by behaviour seen at the age of two (Leadsom)."  The presence of the mother helps the child to progress normally and have a positive role model from extremely early on in life.  Removing the child from its mother and only allowing brief visitation sessions severely hampers the child's ability to adjust normally.

           Keeping in mind that the child is of primary importance, we propose a meal plan for pregnant mothers which better caters to the nutritional needs of their unborn children, and a prison nursery program for mothers that allows them to both see and breastfeed their baby regularly.  "... only nine states in the United States have prison nursery programs in operation or under development (Kravitz)."  With how many pregnant women and women with young kids there are in prison there is a need for far more nursery and nutrition programs.

           Many women are not in prison for violent offenses; the vast majority are for property or drug related crimes.  Because of this fact, it is easier to clear these women as fit to care for their children.  Once declared stable, these women will be moved to a new wing in women's prisons, created specifically set up for childcare.  This wing would be either a separate cell block, or a separate building entirely from the main prison reserved for pregnant women and new mothers.  Inside, this wing would be quite unlike the rest of the prison.  Rather than the stark steel and concrete construction of regular cell blocks, this area would be set up to look more like a traditional apartment or house.  Each mother baby pair would have their own "cell" in this area with a bed for the mother, a bed for the baby, access to a toilet and sink, as well as a dresser for the mother's personal clothes and changing area.  While the inmates are locked inside this specific cell block, they are not confined to their individual cells.  The shared common area will contain baby-oriented recreational and learning items such as children's books, sandbox, early childhood toys, and colorful decorations.  Off to the side there will be a small room with a couch and television inside.  The mothers will have access to this room as a form of stress relief so long as they continue to behave well and treat their kids right.

            The common areas serve several purposes.  One is stress management. It is important to keep stress low for babies this early on in life, and the best way of doing that is to have an attentive caregiver who is not stressed out herself.  By interacting with other mothers, having access to toys to entertain their children with, being allowed to wear their own clothes, and the earned privilege of the television room, mothers will be able to better handle the stressors of being incarcerated.  Second, with multiple mother-baby pairs using the common area, the babies will get used to seeing and interacting with people other than their own mom.  This type of socialization is extremely important for a child's development.  Each week when prison staff go shopping they will take a few of the children with them to expose them to other environments and complete strangers.

           Many of these mothers are going to be lacking care giving skills such as nutrition and cooking.  They will be fed three meals per day, balanced to provide necessary nutrients pregnant and nursing mothers require and meet the average required calorie intake for each trimester.  Meals for the day would include 75-100 grams of protein, 1000 milligrams of calcium, 27 milligrams of iron, about 85 milligrams of Vitamin C, as well as sufficient amounts of sodium, potassium and other important nutrients.






Amount

Calories

Protein

Day 1










Breakfast

1 cup cooked oatmeal cooked with whole milk

310

14g




1 egg

70

6g




1/2 cup seasonal fruit

50

1g

Lunch













2 slices whole wheat bread

150

8g




2 ounces turkey lunch meat

50

9g




1 ounce cheese

110

7g




Green Salad

50

3g




8 oz. whole milk

160

8g




banana

100

1g

Snack













2 Tablespoons peanut butter

200

8g




Crackers

140

1g

Dinner













2 cups vegetable and beef stew

300

25g




1 large piece cornbread

200

4g




pudding

100

3g













Totals




2200

98g













Day 2










Breakfast

2 eggs

140

12g




2 slices whole wheat toast

200

8g




8 oz. orange juice

39

0.6g




2 oz. cheddar cheese

226

14g

Lunch













Liver

268

42g




Russet potatoes

169

4.6g




Yellow squash

20

2g




1 tbsp. butter

100

0g

Snack













Bean burrito

332

10g

Dinner













2 cups chicken noodle soup

200

8g




8 oz. whole milk

160

8g




Crackers

140

1g




Brown rice

218

5g

Totals




2212

115.2

           Additionally, there will be cooking sessions where the inmates can learn how to prepare decent meals.  Many of the women coming into prisons do not have a solid grasp on how to cook, or how to cook and eat healthy.  They will be taught the importance of nutrition for themselves and their children, and they will learn how to prepare meals on a tight budget that are nutritious and filling.  The model for these classes would be similar to the ones offered by the Women's Prison Association in New York(Nutrition Education).  The volunteers would assist with teaching the women their way around the kitchen, while other volunteers educate them on nutrition and lend a helping hand.  The lessons these prisoners would attend would not be anything extremely in depth, but they would be enough for them to have an understanding of what nutrition means and what things they and their children need to stay healthy.

    A general lesson plan would go something like this:  The volunteers would have a presentation about nutrition basics that will explain proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins etc to the inmates.  They will also explain why each is important and what each thing actually does for your body.  After the presentation is over, the mothers would pair up and each pair would have to figure out a nutritious multi-course meal using what they just learned.  Later, they may be asked to do this on a budget to help prepare them for actually purchasing and preparing these items once they are released.  After each group has prepared their menu, they will share with the other groups.  The volunteers and other pairs will have a chance to evaluate the menu choices.  Lastly, volunteers will pick a meal and instruct the mothers in how to prepare it themselves.  The inmates will be able to prepare food, which they can then eat.  The fact they will be getting something different from what they usually consume will serve to motivate them to stay interested even more.  




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