DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA)– Most new moms bring their babies home after giving birth, but some of these infants will take their first steps at the Decatur Correctional Facility. “It was this or I don’t know,” said Josie Coleman. Coleman is part of the Moms and Babies Program. She’s one of eight women taking care of their newborns while serving time. “It gives them a purpose and a reason to do something better in their lives and ultimately that’s going to effect society,” said Catherine Simmons. She works at the Decatur Correctional Facility.
Amanda Whiteley came here on drug charges two years ago. She was pregnant, but didn’t know it until after she was arrested. “It was scary because I thought I was going to have to send him home to family,” said Whiteley.
However, that never happened. She found out about this program and went through the process to enter. “It means everything for us to be able to be here together because otherwise we wouldn’t be able to have the bonding experience,” said Whiteley. “You never get it back, and it’s her first encounter with people. It’s very important for them I think,” said Coleman.
Data from the Sentencing Project says between 1980 and 2016 the number of women in prisons went up by more than 700 percent. Officials in Decatur say a program like this can help. “By forming that bond the recitivism rate for the mothers, which means the rate they would offend again incarcerate again, it is much less,” said Simmons.
In addition to forming bonds, women learn how to parent. Some of them for the first time. As they watch their children grow, they say they’re fighting to not become another statistic.