Prison sentences for petty drug crimes increase the number of jailed women, who are more likely to be single parents than men:
"A lot of women who probably wouldn't have gone to prison before are now going in for Class 4 drug felonies — the least serious felonies," Dr. LaLonde said, referring to crimes that in some instances had previously resulted in nothing more than probation.
Studies show that about 75 percent of imprisoned women across the country are mothers, most of whom had custody of their children before their incarceration.
In response to the growing number of young children with incarcerated parents, California decided to invite kids into prison with their mothers. One San Diego center that houses convicted mothers and their children is currently being investigated for neglect:
For instance, one inmate, Marsha Strickland, complained to the staff about her 5-year-old daughter's blinding headaches and constant nausea for at least six weeks before the girl was allowed a hospital visit in January, according to accounts by inmates and former staff members. The child is now living with relatives and undergoing treatment for brain cancer.