Mothers Behind Bars Teaching Program Builds on Its Success

The Center’s five-year-old Mothers Behind Bars program, praised by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, continues to expand its efforts to deal with the devastating–and growing–problem of incarcerated women with children.

Nationwide, there are nearly one million women in the correctional system–a 400% increase since drug laws mandated sentencing, according to the National Women’s Law Center. In Los Angeles, there are about 1,800 jailed mothers at any one time. More than half have minor children.

These mothers are often victims of violence, as youngsters, teens and adults. Impoverished and traumatized, they were still the primary caretakers of their children before their arrests. Many took up crime as part of an ongoing victim/abuser relationship. Those addicted to drugs and alcohol are frequently self-medicating to ease the pain of their lives.

Through Mothers Behind Bars, the Center’s staff travels to the LA women’s jail in Lynwood, CA several times a week, teaching classes on child welfare law, domestic violence, paternity and child support to thousands of inmates. The purpose is to educate and inform the student inmates, improve their parenting knowledge and teach them how to advocate for themselves. In one survey, the inmates themselves called the program “excellent.”

Feedback from students in the Center’s classes include:

• “The class was really helpful because I learned things I didn’t know before because there aren’t any other resources like this to learn.”

• “What I learned will make a difference in getting my child back.”

• “I learned all about domestic violence and how to get help. In the future I will know what my options are and what to do…and what signs to look for before an abusive relationship starts.”

• “This class will help me in the future make the right decisions for my child’s health, safety and welfare.”

For more information about the Center’s classes at the women’s jail, contact