Recidivism after Release from a Prison Nursery Program




To analyze 3-year recidivism after release from a prison nursery, a secure unit that allows imprisoned women to care for their infants.

Design and Sample

Descriptive study of 139 women who co-resided with their infants between 2001 and 2007 in a New York State prison nursery.


Administrative criminal justice data were analyzed along with prospective study data on demographic, mental health, and prison nursery policy-related factors.


Results reflect a sample of young women of color with histories of clinically significant depressive symptoms and substance dependence, who were convicted of nonviolent crimes and had multiple prior arrests. Three years after release 86.3% remained in the community. Only 4% of women returned to prison for new crimes. Survival modeling indicated that women who had previously violated parole had a significantly shorter mean return to prison time than those who were in the nursery for a new crime.


Women released from a prison nursery have a low likelihood of recidivism. Innovative interventions are needed to address incarceration's public health effects. Nurses can partner with criminal justice organizations to develop, implement, and evaluate programs to ensure the health needs of criminal justice involved people and their families are met.