Babies behind bars: Moms serve time with kids in Ohio jail

Babies behind bars: Moms serve time with kids in Ohio jail

MARYSVILLE, OH (FOX19) - 7-month-old Myia is just starting to crawl, but not on her family's living room floor.

The toddler lives in the prison nursery at the Ohio Reformatory for Women where her mom, Twilla Walker, is serving three years for writing bad checks.

Many pregnant inmates miss out on the priceless first years of bonding for mom and baby as their child is handed off to family members or the foster care system. But not all babies born in prison say goodbye to their mothers.

The Ohio prison is one of only a few allowing babies behind bars under the 'Achieving Baby Care Success Program.' It was started in 2001 and stresses hands-on parenting - the babies even live in the same room with mom.

Nonviolent inmates who are pregnant when they enter the prison system are eligible for the ABC program. Children can stay in the program for up to 36 months and the mother and child are always released together.

Eight babies, including little Myia, are currently growing up at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville.

The nursery looks more like a kid-colored daycare than a jail. It's housed in a special wing away from the general public. Moms are permitted to shop for baby supplies once a week. The prison also has a closet full of donated baby clothes.

Warden Ronette Burkes says the women are kept to a schedule and are responsible for their child's care. Moms are offered the chance to attend school, work or training. While they're out, other screened inmates serve as nannies for the kids.

"Everything I do in here is to prepare me for the outside, to go back into the real world and that my main focus, to stay focused," said Walker.

The ABC program is funded with federal grant money. Research has shown that moms who participate in prison nursery programs are much less likely to re-offend.

If you would like to donate baby clothes to the prison, donations can be mailed to:

Ohio Reformatory for Women

c/o Prison Nursery

1479 Collins Avenue

Marysville, OH  43040

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