Graduation Term


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of Criminal Justice Sciences

Committee Chair

Dawn D.B-T. Beichner-Thomas


Women make relatively small proportions of incarcerated population worldwide, but the rate at which they have been incarcerated over the past four decades in the U.S. has outpaced that of their male counterparts. Although carceral trends show declining patterns in prison population numbers, the jailed population continues on an upward trend (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2022), studies have focused more on prison than jail. The disproportional incarceration of women is evident in jails where the majority of women incarcerated are mothers of young children (Sawyer & Bertram, 2022). The current paper explores mothering experiences of women in two Midwestern jails, including those detained before trial and not yet convicted of crime, as well as convicted individuals incarcerated for one year or less. The study utilizes a qualitative research design and data were analyzed from in-depth interviews with incarcerated mothers. The findings discuss the women’s mothering experiences prior to their incarceration, as well as their parenting experiences while in jail. Most of the mothers in the study were not part of their children’s lives before their incarceration meaning that there were intersectional issues in the system that make the mothering experiences hard for the women. The study presents policy implications relating to parental experiences of mothers’ involved in the criminal justice system.


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