Prison kids are apparently the ones who suffer the most when their parents are incarcerated. Girl Scouts Beyond Bars helps these Forgotten Daughters of Crime bond with their incarcerated moms.

A Young Girl’s Prison Visit with Her Mom Behind Bars

They are denied their right to dedicated biological parenting which is a disservice to a society looking to reduce incarceration and end recidivism. Kuhmaria VanBuren, a 9-year-old girl runs toward the prison gym to happily jump into the arms of her mother, such that they both almost fell down.

Offender Monnek Hall, left, spends time with her daughter Ayona Hall, age 13..

Offender Monnek Hall, left, spends time with her daughter Ayona Hall, age 13. Girl Scouts Beyond Bars at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women in Jessup. Image Source: Capital Gazette

For over an hour, young Kuhmaria let her mother braid her hair and cuddle her while she gives her mom a low down on school gist, making the most of her visit. Twenty six year old Sapphire VanBuren, Kuhmaria’s mother has been incarcerated for over two years at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women.

Kuhmaria and her mother are one of thirty daughter-mother pairs who meet at Jessup prison two times each month with the help of the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars Program. The twenty five year old initiative aims to foster bonding between incarcerated mothers and their daughters.

Speaking to a reporter, VanBuren said:

“It’s wonderful just being able to be in her life, despite the circumstance”.

Troop 1500 Girl Scouts Beyond Bars Gatesville TX

Troop 1500 Girl Scouts Beyond Bars Gatesville TX. Image Source: UTexas

Project Focuses of Girl Scouts Beyond Bars

The project administrators say on the aim of the projects, which has been yielding great results is to help the girls boost their self-esteem. They connect them with a community of people in the same situation who understand what it feels like to be in their shoes.

On the end of the prison moms, most of them see the opportunity as a healthy way of connecting to life outside prison walls, which also makes it an incentive to make it through their sentence without trouble.

This initiative was first implemented by the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland in 1992. However, the model has laudably been duplicated in over twenty Girl Scout councils in the USA.

From 1992 till date, the program has served over 400 prison daughters and their incarcerated moms.

The prison’s warden, Margaret Chippendale spoke on the importance of mothers in the lives of their daughters and how incarceration of mothers affect the family. In her words, she said:

“This is just the opportunity to help stop that breakage, to bring mom and daughter back together.

Incarceration is tough — it’s tough for mom, but it’s really tough on children and the families that’ve been left behind.”

Layla during a visit with her mother, Texas prison inmate Magan Garcia, who says: “She’s the reason I can keep going in here.”

Layla during a visit with her mother, Texas prison inmate Magan Garcia, who says: “She’s the reason I can keep going in here.” Image Source: Time

Statistics on Mothers Behind Bars

The number of incarcerated women is on an alarming rise, a trend that makes women the fastest growing prisoner population in the USA. The number of women in jails and prisons has increased by roughly 14 times from 1970 to 2014, according to a recent study.

Most alarming is the part of the trend that shows that 2/3 of incarcerated women are mothers.

VanBuren still has about nine years left on her 12-year sentence for assault and she is grateful for the opportunity to be as present as possible in the life of her daughter. She said:

“It’s the reason why I keep pushing in here, why I stay out of trouble. It’s all to get home to her.”

The hugging, body contacts and hair-braiding are a few among the visible difference between the visitation and that of a traditional prison visit.

In Maryland, during regular prison visits, the inmates and their visitors are to sit on opposite sides of a table, avoiding contact, except at the end of the hour, where they can embrace briefly. The tight restriction of permitted activities during prison visitation was put to effect by a 2015 policy affecting all prison facilities in Maryland.

The policy bans:

  • Taking pictures
  • Touching at the beginning of prison visits
  • Kissing on the mouth
  • Other restrictions

[amazon_link asins=’B0028N4SPU’ template=’ProductAd’ store=’′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’b68a1db6-df97-11e7-bcfb-77b3f47ce2c2′] Girl Scouts Beyond Bars organizers are hoping to extend their reach to more girls and sustain the program for as long as possible.

They recognize the need and advantages of mother-daughter bonding, even when mom is parenting from behind bars.