My Mom is Badder Than Yours: Women Prisoners (in the U.S. & Argentina) Demand Better Conditions for Motherhood Behind Bars

Co-written with Meg Escude, "My Mom is Badder Than Yours" examines the treatment of mothers and children incarcerated in the United States and Argentina. It discusses the strategies of resistance, activism and advocacy adopted by imprisoned mothers in both countries and, as a result of their actions, the subsequent changes in law, policy and practice.

In the United States, prison policy separates an incarcerated mother from her newborn baby less than 48 hours after birth. Some prisons have children’s centers where incarcerated mothers can live with their infants for the first 18 to 24 months, but such programs are few and far between. In Argentina, incarcerated mothers are allowed to raise their children in prison until the children are at least two years old. They live together in separate wings with slightly better conditions, and there are education and recreation programs for the children.

Over the last few years prisoners and their visitors have held hunger strikes in prisons throughout Argentina demanding improved conditions for mothers and children behind bars. In 2003, approximately 300 women rioted for nine days, demanding that the prison provide a pediatrician. This year a national law was passed, giving incarcerated mothers priority in consideration for house arrest until the child is five years old (Buletín Oficial de la Nación, 2009).

Mothers incarcerated in the U.S. have also challenged and resisted penal policies and, in some cases, collectively organized to create programs. In New York, incarcerated mothers formed the Foster Care Committee. Their advocacy led to new legislation granting prisoners with children in foster care the same rights and responsibilities as parents who are not incarcerated, including the right to monthly visits.

This piece will examine the treatment of mothers and children incarcerated in Argentina and the U.S., as well as their actions demanding that their needs as mothers be recognized and met.

You can read the entire article on-line at:

For a pdf (which is easier on the eyes, or at least my eyes), go to